Trump, Biden spar in U.S. presidential debate
Bloomberg News is checking the facts at the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.
CLAIM: Trump predicts there will be widespread fraud, especially with mail-in ballots
Voter fraud is extremely rare. One study found 31 incidents of voter fraud in elections from 2000 to 2014 in which more than 1 billion ballots were cast. Another study found it was more likely that an American would be struck by lightning than impersonate another voter.
There’s no substantive difference between mail-in and absentee voting, although Trump tries to make one. Most states don’t require a voter to give a reason for needing an absentee or mail-in ballot, and almost all of those that do are accepting coronavirus as a reason this year. The security safeguards are the same for both.
About 44 million ballots will be mailed automatically to registered voters in nine states and Washington, D.C. Experts say the total number of ballots cast by mail could be as high as 80 million, but that includes states where voters have to request a mail-in ballot.
Experts say that any effort to counterfeit mail-in ballots would face nearly impossible logistical difficulties, from reproducing the size and weight of ballot paper to the specific races on each ballot to the voter signatures on file.
CLAIM: Trump says greenhouse gas emissions have declined under his presidency
It’s true that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have declined -- some 15% since 2005, a frequently used baseline. They’ve dipped even further this year as coronavirus lockdowns curbed air and road travel.
But that decrease has been driven mostly by market forces -- not by the federal government. And it’s come despite the Trump administration’s moves to relax rules throttling the release of greenhouse gases from power plants, automobiles and oil wells.
The U.S. has pared greenhouse gas emissions from electricity largely because power companies have shed coal in favor of cleaner-burning natural gas and low cost renewables. State renewable power targets also have propelled reductions.
CLAIM: Hunter Biden had corrupt deals with overseas companies
In early 2016, then-Vice President Biden pushed Ukraine to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin, a position that was in concert with official U.S. foreign policy and other allied nations. Although Shokin had been investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that put the vice president’s son Hunter on its board, that investigation had long been dormant by the time Biden was pushing for Shokin’s ouster in early 2016, a former Ukrainian official told Bloomberg News in May 2019. Shokin was viewed as corrupt by the U.S. and its allies.
Some Republicans have said Hunter Biden made more than $1 billion from a Chinese government-owned bank, but that claim isn’t true. The younger Biden was on the board of a Chinese-backed private equity firm, from which he stepped down in October 2019. At the time that he stepped down, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, George Mesires, said Biden had a 10% equity position in the company valued at $420,000 but he had not received any return on that investment.
Still, Hunter Biden’s involvement in foreign companies while his father was serving as vice president raised eyebrows because of the potential for conflicts of interest. In 2015, Obama administration officials had raised concerns about Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma, according to a Senate investigation by Republicans released last week. But the report didn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden.
CLAIM: Trump says Antifa radicals are the biggest threat to safety
Earlier this month, FBI Director Chris Wray declined to say that the anarchist movement Antifa, which Trump cited, is the biggest domestic threat.
“Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a fiction,” Wray told a congressional committee. “But it’s not an organization or a structure. We understand it to be more of a movement or maybe you could call it an ideology.”
And just last week, Chad Wolf, Trump’s nominee to lead the agency in charge of curbing domestic terrorism, told senators that White supremacists have become the “most persistent and lethal threat” to the U.S. from within the country.
CLAIM: Trump said he has paid hundreds of millions of dollars in federal income taxes
The New York Times reported that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017. Trump said he paid “millions” in federal income taxes but also claimed that he’s using the tax breaks and loopholes that are embedded in the tax code. Trump said in a 2016 presidential debate that not paying taxes makes him “smart.”
It’s true that some of the tax maneuvers Trump used were included in a law Barack Obama signed allowing taxpayers to use more years of losses to cancel out current tax liabilities. But tax lawyers have said that the details outlined in the New York Times reporting include some red flags that Trump’s aggressive tax moves could violate the law. Classifying a family home as an investment property, writing off personal expenses including haircuts and paying consulting fees to his children could run afoul of tax rules, the lawyers said.
The IRS has also disputed some of Trump’s tax records and has yet to resolve a years-long audit with the president over a $72.9 million tax refund from 2010, according to the New York Times. That audit is still ongoing and frequently cited by Trump as a reason he can’t release his tax return, even though the IRS has said that is not a reason to withhold the returns.
CLAIM: Biden says Trump will be the first president to have fewer jobs at the end of his presidency
If current trends persist, Biden is right. When Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, the U.S. had 146 million jobs. As of August employment data, that number is down to 141 million, according to government data. That’s largely driven under Trump’s administration by the coronavirus closures and the recession, but it hasn’t happened under any other four-year presidential term in generations. The data goes back to World War II.
CLAIM: Trump claims a vaccine for COVID-19 is coming soon
There are currently more than 190 experimental coronavirus vaccines in development, according to the World Health Organization, 40 of which have entered human studies.
Experimental shots from Pfizer Inc. in partnership with BioNTech SE, the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca Plc, and Moderna Inc. are among the vanguard. Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has stated that he expects to get conclusive data on his shot’s efficacy by the end of October. Bourla has also said it’s “likely” the U.S. will be able to deploy that vaccine, contingent on an approval from regulators, to the broader public before year-end, pushing back against more tepid expectations shared by health authorities.
However estimates from top health officials range from the end of March to the end of 2021 due to production and distribution requirements.Read more: The Keys to Speed in Race for Vaccine, and Its Perils: QuickTake
CLAIM: Trump said China is to blame for COVID-19
The novel coronavirus first broke out in Wuhan, China, and there’s evidence that local officials initially downplayed the danger for fear of upsetting Communist Party officials in Beijing.
While Trump moved to halt most travel from China to the U.S. in early February, the restrictions were porous.
Critics point out that Trump continued to downplay the severity of the virus throughout February and did little to get the U.S. mobilized for a pandemic, saying as late as March 12 that “it’s going away. We want it to go away with very, very few deaths” and then pushing to have the entire country reopen by Easter.
Trump also claims that China stopped the virus from spreading beyond Wuhan to other parts of China, but let it spread abroad intentionally. In fact, cases were reported across China. According to WHO data, there were just over 81,000 cases of COVID-19 in China, of which some 13,000 were outside of Hubei province, which includes Wuhan, where it originated.
CLAIM: Trump says health plan would cover pre-existing conditions
The Trump administration has backed a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The case is scheduled to be argued in November following the U.S. presidential election, though a verdict isn’t likely until next year.
Trump has expanded alternatives to the ACA, including short-term health plans that can exclude people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more. But Trump has yet to articulate a comprehensive replacement for the ACA, including one that would keep in place the popular provision that guarantees that health insurers can’t deny coverage to sick people or charge them more. It’s estimated that almost 3 in 10 American adults between 18 and 64 have a pre-existing condition.
Given widespread support for the provision, Trump signed an executive order on Sept. 24 stating that it is the government’s “policy” to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. The order doesn’t describe how the administration would achieve that if the court strikes down the ACA. Independent experts have said it’s not a credible approach to replacing the ACA’s safeguards.
CLAIM: Biden says Trump would take pre-existing coverage from 100 million Americans
The 100 million figure refers to an estimate of Americans not enrolled in large federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid who have pre-existing conditions. But if the Affordable Care Act were repealed and its protections eliminated, it would primarily impact those with pre-existing conditions who have sought coverage through the individual market, where Americans can purchase their own health insurance without going through an employer or such federal healths programs. And that figure is much smaller, though difficult to gauge.
--With assistance from Riley Griffin, Olivia Rockeman, Michelle Fay Cortez, Katia Dmitrieva, Ryan Teague Beckwith, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Tyler Pager, Laura Davison and Kristen V. Brown.