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Fact-checking the Clinton-Trump Presidential Debate

October 20, 2016 3:03 AM
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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Nevada for their third and final debate before the November 8 presidential election.

The two began the night debating their very different approaches to some of the country's stickiest issues: gun rights, abortion and immigration.

It was a striking turnabout from how the previous two debates unfolded. The last time the two met, in St. Louis, the debate moderators began by asking about the increasingly negative tone of the campaign, focusing on a 2005 video of Trump making predatory comments about women.

In Las Vegas, the night kicked off with all policy. But how much of what the candidates said was true, fair and accurate? Here is a look at their statements, along with a check of the facts.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton begin their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 19, 2016.

The statement: “Hillary Clinton wanted the [border] wall. Hillary Clinton fought for the wall in 2006 or thereabouts. Now, she never gets anything done, so naturally it wasn't built.”

The facts: Almost, but not quite. As a senator from New York, Clinton did support the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which authorized the construction of hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

And it was built. Nearly 700 miles of fencing was put in place during President George W. Bush's second term and the beginning of President Barack Obama's first term.

The fencing is placed largely in urban areas along the nearly 2,000-mile frontier. It is not the type of solid wall that Trump has pledged to construct at Mexico's expense. The fence has miles-long gaps and gates built in to allow landowners access to their property on the south side of the fencing. Immigrants have been known to go over and around the fence.

Media members listen to the third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct.19, 2016.

The statement: Clinton, on Trump's charge that she called for open borders in a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank: “I was talking about energy.”

The facts: She was actually talking about more than energy, but apparently less than an open border that immigrants can spill across at will, according to the partial transcript released by WikiLeaks.

Clinton said in the speech that “my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that is as green as sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere." The remarks suggest a broad interest in open trade but were not necessarily evidence that she would support the unfettered movement of people, as Trump charged.

The facts: It was Trump’s contractor, not Trump himself, who hired 200 undocumented Polish workers to demolish a building to make room for Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump said he didn’t know. The lawsuit sought $1 million in damages, and a judge ruled that Trump had to pay $325,000 plus interest.

But the case was appealed and before it was retried, Trump settled the case out of court, so it’s unclear how much he ended up doling out.

The statement: Clinton “has no idea whether it's Russia, China or anybody else” that is behind recent hacks of Democratic organizations and individuals, Trump said. “Our country has no idea.”

The facts: Actually, the U.S. government says it does have an idea, and has concluded it was Russia that hacked into the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the email accounts of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and others.

Trump's refusal to point the finger at Moscow is at odds with the prevailing position of the U.S. intelligence community.

“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said recently in a joint statement with the Department of Homeland Security.

Top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees say they've concluded Russian intelligence agencies were trying to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Oct. 19, 2016.

The statement: Trump used to sing a different tune about knowing, meeting Vladimir Putin.

The facts: Trump has changed what he’s said about whether he’s had a relationship with Putin.

In 2013, he said, "I do have a relationship." In 2014 he said, "I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin" and said the Russian leader had sent him a present. In 2015, he said, "I got to know him very well" because of their joint appearance on 60 Minutes.

More recently, though, Trump has said, "I never met Putin — I don't know who Putin is" and "I have no relationship with him."

The statement: “I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment" in the District of Columbia vs. Heller decision in 2008. “I was upset because unfortunately dozens of toddlers injure themselves and even kill people with guns. ... But there's no doubt I respect the Second Amendment, that I believe there's an individual right to bear arms.”

The facts: While Clinton emphasized the protection of children from gun accidents, the main holding in that case was far broader: that individuals have a right to own guns, at least in their homes and for self-defense. The case marked the first time the court said that individuals have a Second Amendment right to own a gun. The decision struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handgun ownership as well as a separate requirement that people who have other guns store them either with trigger locks or disassembled. The court said both provisions violate the Second Amendment.

The facts: Clinton might aspire to that lofty goal, but she has only proposed making college tuition free for in-state students who go to a public college or university. Even with expanded grant aid, room-and-board costs can lead students to borrow.

Clinton would have the government pay for in-state tuition at public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year. Students would still need to foot the bill for housing and food, which makes up more than half of the average $18,943 sticker price at a four-year public university, according to the College Board.

But Trump was correct when he said that government would shoulder higher costs with Clinton's plan.

Her plan would cost the federal government an estimated $500 billion over 10 years, with additional costs possibly for state governments.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (not pictured) at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 19, 2016.

The statement: “President Obama has moved millions of people out ... millions of people have been moved out of this country,” according to Trump.

The facts: That's true. Obama has overseen the deportation of more than 2.5 million immigrants since taking office in January 2009.

During Obama's first term hundreds of thousands of immigrants were deported annually, following a trend of increasing deportations started under President George W. Bush. The administration set a record in 2014 when more than 409,000 people were sent home. During his second term, deportations have steadily declined as he has opted to focus immigration enforcement resources on finding and deporting serious criminals and those who pose a threat to national security or public safety.

But Trump also claims that “nobody knows about it, nobody talks about it" and that's far from the truth. Obama has been dubbed “the deporter in chief" by immigration advocates and opponents of his immigration enforcement policies.

The facts: The roots of ISIS trace back to 2004, before Clinton was President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. The intervention in Libya, which she supported, did give ISIS an opening, but Trump is overstating her role by saying she is responsible for ISIS.

The statement: The Clinton Foundation has taken millions from the Middle East.

The facts: It doesn’t violate campaign rules for a nonprofit philanthropy to accept donations from foreign governments. Over the years, the Clinton Foundation has taken millions of dollars from foreign governments. This includes between $1 million and $5 million from the United Arab Emirates and between $10 million and $25 million from Saudi Arabia. At least a portion of those donations came in 2014, after Clinton left the State Department and formally joined the family’s foundation that had previously been in her husband’s name alone.

The statement: Save Gerald Ford, Trump is first nominee not to release tax returns.

The facts: It is true that the only major-party presidential nominee who didn’t release returns was Ford, the Republican nominee in 1976. It's also worth noting that many nominees have released numerous years of returns, but some have released only one or two.

Customers watch the third and last U.S. presidential debate at the Pinche Gringo BBQ restaurant in Mexico City, Oct. 19, 2016.

The statement: Trump cites a Pew report when talking about a rigged election.

The facts: The Trump campaign points to a 2012 Pew Center study that estimated about 24 million, equal to one in every eight, voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are inaccurate. However, no evidence of voter fraud was found — this is about record-keeping that is badly managed and in disarray.

The statement: Clinton has said she could support restrictions on abortions in the third trimester (about week 28 of a pregnancy) if the mother’s life and health are taken into account.

The facts: According to PolitiFact, there are many instances of Clinton saying abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." Clinton is open to restrictions on late-term abortions provided there are exceptions for the life and health of the mother. This includes both mental health and medical complications like preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication of high blood pressure that could lead to death.


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