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FactCheck.org monitors statements made by many popular politicians and lets users know how accurate their comments are. It is both nonpartisan and nonprofit.
Q: Were there “major signs of voter fraud” in Ohio’s congressional special election?
A: No. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office says there have been no reports of voter fraud.
Recently there has been a report that a district in Ohio (district 12?) where 170 “registered voters” were showing as being 116 years old. I have only been able to find this on sites such as Breitbart, Fellowship of the Mind, The Federalist Papers, Red State, so I seriously doubt the veracity of these numbers. Can you determine if this is accurate?
A special election for a congressional seat in Ohio is too close to call and some unreliable websites have filled the void with misinformation.
Since the Aug. 7 election, Republican Troy Balderson has maintained a slight edge over Democrat Danny O’Connor, but the Ohio secretary of state won’t have a complete count of all of the provisional and absentee ballots until Aug. 24.
In the meantime, some partisan websites have suggested that voter fraud is the culprit for the close election. One such story claimed that Balderson’s slim lead “just goes to show that voter fraud can have a huge impact on all kinds of elections in our country.”
That story’s headline said: “Red Alert: Major Signs of Voter Fraud Uncovered In Ohio.”
But that’s not true. There have been no “major signs of voter fraud” in Ohio.
In fact, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office has not received any reports of voter fraud following the Aug. 7 election, spokesman Sam Rossi told FactCheck.org in a phone interview.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who was elected to office in 2010, issued a statement a week after the election to dispel those rumors. He said, in part:
Husted statement, Aug. 13: First, I can assure all voters who participated in last Tuesday’s election that all eligible ballots will be counted – no exceptions. It is also important to keep in mind that the results provided on Tuesday are unofficial and the official results will not be available until county boards of elections complete the official canvass, which must be done by August 24.
As to concerns of potential voter fraud, my office has done a lot to clean up the voter rolls. During my tenure, we have removed more than 680,000 deceased voters, reconciled nearly two million duplicate registrations, and now have complete information on over 90 percent of voters – up from just 20 percent when I took office in 2011. As I have always said, while voter fraud exists, it is rare and we hold those who commit it accountable.
The bogus story borrowed heavily from a Breitbart article written by Eric Eggers, who works at the conservative Government Accountability Institute think tank, and recently published a book called, “Fraud: How the Left Plans to Steal the Next Election.”
In the only example he offers of alleged voter fraud, Eggers writes that there are 170 voters registered in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District who are over 116 years old. That’s wrong.
According to the most recent version of the roll for that district, there are 161 registered voters who have a birthdate listed as Jan. 1, 1800 or Jan. 1, 1900. But those dates are just place holders for voters who registered before birthdates became a required part of the registration process in 1974. They are not their real birthdates.
Ohio actually has a system for purging inactive voters from the rolls — so people who have moved, or have died, are taken off the rolls. If a person doesn’t vote for four consecutive years after failing to return a confirmation of address postcard sent by the state, his or her name is removed from the list of eligible voters. That system was just upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June.
Although we couldn’t talk to everyone registered in the 12th District who was listed as being born in 1800 or 1900, we did talk to some of them and can confirm that they are living, breathing, eligible voters.
Charles Hacker, of Mansfield, Ohio, is one of them. He registered to vote in 1973, according to the voter roll, and his birthdate is listed as Jan. 1, 1800. But he was actually born in 1944, he told FactCheck.org in a phone interview. He’s 74 years old.
Similarly, Karen Morris, also of Mansfield, registered to vote in 1972, according to the roll. Her birthdate is also listed as Jan 1, 1800, but she was actually born in 1946.
“We’re both dedicated voters,” her husband, Larry Morris, told us in a phone interview. In fact, when they went to vote in the special election on Aug. 7, he said, one of the election officials told his wife, “You look awful young for having an 1800 birthday.” His wife had been unaware of the place holder date and changed it at that point. “I hope they get it straight now,” he said.
So, those voters that Eggers questioned may well live in that district — Charles Hacker and Karen Morris do. And they’re much younger than 116.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
“Red Alert: Major Signs of Voter Fraud Uncovered In Ohio.” Fbnewscycle.com. 9 Aug 2018.
Husted, Jon. Ohio Secretary of State. “Secretary Husted Addresses Misinformation & Misleading Claims Regarding Recent Special Election.” 13 Aug 2018.
Eggers, Eric. “Expert: 170 Registered Voters in Ohio’s 12th District Listed as Over 116 Years Old.” Breitbart.com. 8 Aug 2018.
Ohio Secretary of State. Congressional District 12 voter files. 11 Aug 2018.
Husted V. Philip Randolph Institute. No. 16-980. Supreme Court of the U.S. 11 Jun 2018.
Q: Did the Obama administration separate “72,410 Children From Their Families in 2013”?
A: That’s the number of immigrants removed that year who had U.S.-born children. But viral stories wrongly conflate removals with President Trump’s zero tolerance policy.
Viral stories that defend the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from adults caught illegally crossing the country’s southwest border are claiming that the Obama administration did worse — by separating “72,410 Children From Their Families in 2013.”
But the websites parroting that line overstate the number of children separated “from their families” under President Obama and conflate two separate immigration actions. We explain both issues here.
Zero Tolerance Policy
As we’ve reported before, the wide-scale practice of separating families apprehended at the border was not one employed by previous administrations.
Experts told us that, under previous presidents, such family separations occurred in “really limited circumstances,” such as suspicion of trafficking or other fraud.
None had a blanket rule like the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy,” which referred all illegal border crossings for criminal prosecution. When that happened, adults were sent to jails that cannot legally house children.
Relying on civil immigration proceedings to remove those who crossed illegally, “previous administrations used family detention facilities, allowing the whole family to stay together while awaiting their deportation case in immigration court” — or released and tracked families as they awaited their court dates, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Before suspending its practice of separating families amid widespread criticism, the Trump administration separated more than 2,000 children from adults — and has been working to meet a federal court’s order to reunify those eligible.
Existing Deportation Policy
The website davidharrisjr.com claimed in an Aug. 10 story that “BARACK OBAMA SEPARATED 72,410 CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES IN 2013 ALONE.”
“The truth of the matter is that it was not Donald Trump’s policies that begin separating children from their parents,” the story says, later adding: “With all the liberal tears, wailings and gnashings of teeth over 2,000 illegal children being separated by the Trump administration you would think the 72,410 Obama separated in one year would spark a nation wide protest, wouldn’t you?”
In reality, the number cited — 72,410 — refers to the number of unauthorized immigrants who were removed in 2013 that claimed “at least one U.S.-born child.” A 2014 HuffPost story reported as much, citing U.S. Department of Homeland Security reports given to Congress for the first and second halves of 2013.
The action of deporting unauthorized immigrants, including those with U.S.-born children, has existed across administrations, and continues to occur today. In other words, Trump’s new zero tolerance policy is in addition to existing deportation actions.
Most of the removals in 2013 were the result of “immigration enforcement priorities” — meaning the immigrants were convicted of a crime, caught illegally entering the U.S., or were considered a fugitive because they failed to report to ICE or were already issued a final order of removal.
We don’t know how many children were separated from their families in 2013, and the HuffPost story did not say, so the headline on davidharrisjr.com is wrong. It says Obama “separated 72,410 children from their families in 2013 alone.” But an unknown number wound up staying with their families, either with their other parent or another family member.
The website misleads when it conflates the issues by declaring that “it was not Donald Trump’s policies that begin separating children from their parents. Those policies were in place long before Donald Trump took office.”
In the years following 2013, the number of immigrants removed who claimed at least one U.S. child did decline. While we couldn’t locate data for 2014, DHS reported that there were 31,411 such removals in 2015. In 2016, the number totaled 28,860.
Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said in an interview that the drop was likely the result of enforcement changes by the Obama administration. DHS guidance issued in late 2014, building off the president’s executive actions on immigration, more thoroughly outlined immigration enforcement priorities and the use of prosecutorial discretion.
Under the changes, the highest priority group for deportation included serious criminal offenders, especially those deemed national security threats, and immigrants apprehended at the border. DHS officials were also given ample discretion on such cases — even if they did fall under one of several levels of priority. And having a child who was a U.S. citizen, Pierce said, could have helped their case.
We don’t have enough data to know how exactly the number of immigrants removed who have a U.S.-born child will change over the course of the Trump administration. The first half of 2017 saw 12,464 such removals — a drop from 14,699 in the first half of 2016.
But within days of taking office, Trump overrode the 2014 guidance with an executive order that significantly broadened the groups of immigrants in the country illegally that should be prioritized for removal, Pierce noted.
The effects of that may result in Immigration and Customs Enforcement increasing the removals of parents of U.S. citizens, she said. “It takes a lot of time to ramp up interior enforcement — we’ve seen ICE trying to work with local jurisdictions … [and] criminal justice systems, trying to get referrals.”
We asked DHS for the number of immigrants removed who claimed U.S.-born children in the second half of 2017, and to date in 2018 — as well as for other years’ data — but did not get a response. We will update this story if we do.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
O’Shea, Tim and Theresa Cardinal Brown. “Why Are Families Being Separated at the Border? An Explainer.” Bipartisan Policy Center. 13 Jun 2018.
Pierce, Sarah. Policy analyst, Migration Policy Institute. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 14 Aug 2018.
Robertson, Lori. “Did the Obama Administration Separate Families?” FactCheck.org. 20 Jun 2018.
Rosenblum, Marc R. “Understanding the Potential Impact of Executive Action on Immigration Enforcement.” Migration Policy Institute. Jul 2015.
Trump, Donald J. Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. White House. 25 Jan 2017.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: First Semi-Annual, Calendar Year 2013.” 28 Apr 2014.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: Second Half, Calendar Year 2013.” 28 Apr 2014.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: First Half, Calendar Year 2015.” 1 Aug 2016.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: Second Half, Calendar Year 2015.” 1 Aug 2016.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: First Half, Calendar Year 2016.” 14 Sep 2016.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: Second Half, Calendar Year 2016.” 1 Jun 2017.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Deportation of Aliens Claiming U.S.-Born Children: First Half, Calendar Year 2017.” 12 Oct 2017.
A group calling itself DefendArizona attacks Senate candidate Kelli Ward of Arizona in a TV ad filled with images of terrorists and misstatements of facts:
- The ad says Ward in a 2016 interview “called for restraint in fighting terrorism.” Actually, Ward called for restraint when it comes to “nation building” and trying to “spread democracy.” As for terrorism, Ward said “we have to be willing to decimate ISIS.”
- The ad claims Ward “would cut military funding,” citing Vote Smart as a source. In fact, Ward answered “no” in a 2016 Vote Smart survey when asked if she was willing to cut defense spending to balance the budget.
- After falsely saying she “would cut military funding,” the ad says “Ward’s position would even have prevented raises for the troops who keep us safe.” That leaves the mistaken impression that cutting funding would prevent military pay raises, which are set by statutory formula.
Kelli Ward, a former state senator, is one of five Republicans running for U.S. Senate in the Aug. 28 primary. Polls show she is running second to Rep. Martha McSally, who was elected to Congress in 2014.
The DefendArizona TV ad now airing in Arizona warns that Ward would be weak on national defense and fighting terrorists. But the facts don’t support the ad’s claims.
‘Restraint and Realism’
The ad starts with powerful images of armed masked terrorists, while the narrator talks about ISIS — the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State. The vilifying visuals continue throughout the 30-second ad.
“ISIS killed thousands. Plotted attacks on U.S. soil. They’re a real threat,” the narrator says. “But Kelli Ward called for restraint in fighting terrorism.”
On the screen, viewers see: “Kelli Ward on fighting ISIS ‘…restraint and realism,’” with a notation citing an interview that Ward gave to Seth Leibsohn on June 28, 2016.
We listened to the interview and Ward did not call for “restraint in fighting terrorism.” Quite the opposite. She said the U.S. has “to be willing to decimate ISIS,” not merely contain them.
The partial quote used in the ad — “restraint and realism” — wasn’t about fighting terrorists. It was directed at past presidents who, she claimed, overreached by trying to “spread democracy” and “do nation building.”
Here is her full response, which comes at about the 5:25 minute mark, when Leibsohn asked Ward about her policy toward ISIS.
Ward on “The Seth and Chris Show,” June 28, 2016: We can’t continue with this strategy of go in and do nation building, try to spread democracy, and unfortunately we had that policy under George W. Bush as well. It isn’t what traditional conservative foreign policy has been, which is restraint and realism. Those things need to be brought back into the process in the foreign policy arena.
I think that we also, we have to be willing to decimate ISIS – not control them, not to curb their activities … not live with them, not to empower them, certainly not to empower them, and I think it is going to take that strong commander in chief and then conservative reinforcements in both the House and Senate to make it happen.
Ward did not explain how she would “decimate ISIS,” but she also did not say that she would pursue a policy of “restraint in fighting terrorism,” as the ad claims.
The ad’s narrator goes on to say, “Kelli Ward would cut military funding, putting the war on terror at risk.” Again, DefendArizona misstates the facts.
On the screen, the ad cites “Vote Smart, 2016” as its source. But that source, in fact, contradicts the ad.
A 2016 Vote Smart survey asked candidates if they would be willing to cut defense spending to balance the budget. Ward answered “no.” She did say that “everything has to be on the table” when it comes to cutting spending, “including waste and bureaucracy in the Defense Department,” but she went on to say the U.S. “must fund our troops and maintain the strongest military in the world.”
Her answer, in full:
Kelli Ward, 2016: I think everything has to be on the table for spending reductions, including waste and bureaucracy in the Defense Department. I wouldn’t phrase it as “defense cuts,” but rather that we cannot have sacred cows.
Also military spending is constitutional while social spending is not. We must fund our troops and maintain the strongest military in the world. I believe in Peace Through Strength.
DefendArizona twisted Ward’s answer on cutting military spending to balance the budget — which was clearly “no” — by selectively seizing on how she would consider cutting bureaucratic waste everywhere in government.
Military Pay Raises
After falsely saying she “would cut military funding,” the ad immediately says “Ward’s position would even have prevented raises for the troops who keep us safe.” That’s misleading.
As juxtaposed in the ad, “Ward’s position” would grammatically refer to the preceding false claim about cutting military funding — leaving the mistaken impression that cutting military funding would prevent military pay raises. But that’s not how it works.
Military pay is set by statutory formula.
The automatic pay raise could be changed in two ways, as explained in an May report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service:
- The president can “specify an alternative pay adjustment that supersedes the automatic adjustment.”
- Congress can pass legislation that would “override the automatic adjustment and/or any presidential adjustment if it were enacted.”
That means military pay raises cannot be prevented unless Congress or the president specifically acts separately from appropriating less funding for defense.
The ad’s narrator doesn’t explain what he means by “Ward’s position,” but viewers may notice the language on the screen that says, “Kelli Ward: Opposed Defense Authorization Act.” In larger type, it adds, “Included pay raises for troops.”
This refers to statements Ward made about the annual National Defense Authorization Act in 2013 and 2016. But the ad doesn’t explain what Ward said about the NDAA, so viewers would not know that those statements had nothing to do with cutting defense spending or blocking military pay raises.
In both cases, Ward expressed her opposition to a controversial provision in the NDAA that would allow the military to detain U.S. citizens without trial if they are suspected of terror-related crimes.
In the 2013 interview, Zanna said the provision would violate the U.S. Constitution and deny American citizens due process. Ward agreed.
“I don’t support the bill, and I think there should always be due process — that’s why it’s put there to protect the little guy,” Ward said.
In the 2016 survey, Ward checked “yes” when asked: ” Will you oppose any legislation that includes or allows the indefinite detention of US citizens without charge or trial, such as the most recent NDAA?”
This is not an unusual position for a conservative Republican. Days after Ward’s interview, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, among others, voted against the NDAA for the same reason.
In a Dec. 19, 2013, statement, Cruz said, “Today I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act. I am deeply concerned that Congress still has not prohibited President Obama’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”
Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also opposed that provision and voted against the NDAA in 2013. The bill passed the Senate 84-15 with 12 Republicans opposed — so the “no” votes actually cast that year, as opposed to the ad’s speculation about how Ward would have voted, did not prevent a military pay raise.
It’s also worth noting that the NDAA for fiscal years 2014 and 2016 did not include any language for military pay.
For 2014, President Obama specified an alternative pay adjustment of 1 percent, revised down from the statutory formula of 1.8 percent, and Congress took no action to override Obama when it passed H.R. 3304, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014.
In a report on the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization and appropriations bills, CRS said “H.R. 3304 included no provision setting the FY2014 military pay raise.”
More recently, CRS said in May 8 report: “Congress specified no percentage increase for 1983, 2011, 2012, or 2014-2016, thereby allowing the permanent formula or the presidential alternative adjustment to go into effect.”
The NDAA is the first of a two-step process to fund the military. The NDAA process gives the Defense Department the authority to make financial commitments, but an annual defense appropriations bill actually gives the department the money to pay for its commitments.
The NDAA is routinely approved and the “no” votes made no difference in 2014 and 2016. “Enactment of the annual NDAA has come to be expected, as the FY2016 NDAA was the 54th consecutive defense authorization act to be enacted,” CRS says.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee for New York’s 14th Congressional District seat, are pointing to a study they say shows “Medicare-for-all” would save Americans money. But the author says their comments “appear to reflect a misunderstanding of my study.”
The study is based on the language of a “Medicare-for-all” bill proposed by Sanders last year that makes assumptions about reduced administrative and drug costs, as well as deeply reduced reimbursement rates to health care providers under a universal health care system. But the study’s author believes those assumptions about savings are unrealistic.
Our fact-checking colleagues at the Washington Post first wrote about this when, on July 30, Sanders tweeted, “Thank you, Koch brothers, for accidentally making the case for Medicare for All!”
Thank you, Koch brothers, for accidentally making the case for Medicare for All! pic.twitter.com/speuEL6ETC
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 30, 2018
In the accompanying video, Sanders says, “Let me thank the Koch brothers, of all people, for sponsoring a study that shows that Medicare for All would save the American people $2 trillion over a 10-year period.”
Ocasio-Cortez referenced the same study when asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Aug. 8 about the cost of “Medicare-for-all.”
“First of all, the thing we need to realize is people talk about the sticker shock of Medicare-for-all. They do not talk about the sticker shock of our existing system,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “You know in a Koch brothers-funded study – if any study is going to try to be a little bit slanted it would be one funded by the Koch brothers – it shows that Medicare-for-all is actually much cheaper than the current system that we pay right now.”
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are referring to a working paper, “The Costs of a National Single-Payer Healthcare System,” published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The Mercatus Center gets some of its funding from the libertarian Koch brothers, but more about that later.
The author of the paper, Charles Blahous, a senior research strategist at the Mercatus Center who once was the deputy director of President Bush’s National Economic Council, says the two proponents of a universal health care system are distorting the findings of his paper.
The study looked at the impact of the Medicare for All Act introduced by Sanders on Sept. 13, 2017. The bill, which has 16 Democratic cosponsors, would expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program, phased in over four years. (The bill hasn’t gone anywhere in a Republican-controlled Senate.)
The top line of the paper’s abstract says that the bill “would, under conservative estimates, increase federal budget commitments by approximately $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years of full implementation.” According to the paper, even doubling all “currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”
But Sanders’ spokesman, Josh Miller-Lewis, told us that presenting only the additional governmental cost of Medicare-for-all — “the scary $32 trillion figure” — leaves out the larger context. Of course the government would spend more on health care under a Medicare-for-all system, he said, but the idea is that it would result in less spending on healthcare in the U.S. overall.
Miller-Lewis referred to figures not highlighted in the report that show that between 2022 and 2031, the currently projected cost of health care expenditures in the U.S. of $59.4 trillion would dip to $57.6 trillion under the “Medicare-for-all” plan. That’s how Sanders arrives at his claim that the study “shows that Medicare for All would save the American people $2 trillion over a 10 year period.” (See Table 2.)
In an email to FactCheck.org, Blahous said he didn’t highlight that figure because he doesn’t think it’s realistic.
As Blahous wrote in the fourth sentence of his abstract, “It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that health care providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance.”
Blahous used the text of Sanders’ bill to guide assumptions. For example, he said, the bill says health care providers will be reimbursed for patients at Medicare payment rates. Blahous said Medicare payment rates are projected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to be roughly 40 percent lower than those paid by private insurers, so he built those assumed savings into his estimate.
But in the report, Blahous cautions that the assumption is suspect.
Blahous, July 2018: [I]t is not precisely predictable how hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers would respond to a dramatic reduction in their reimbursements under M4A, well below their costs of care for all categories of patients combined. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary has projected that even upholding current-law reimbursement rates for treating Medicare beneficiaries alone would cause nearly half of all hospitals to have negative total facility margins by 2040. The same study found that by 2019, over 80 percent of hospitals will lose money treating Medicare patients — a situation M4A would extend, to a first approximation, to all US patients. Perhaps some facilities and physicians would be able to generate heretofore unachieved cost savings that would enable their continued functioning without significant disruptions. However, at least some undoubtedly would not, thereby reducing the supply of healthcare services at the same time M4A sharply increases healthcare demand. It is impossible to say precisely how much the confluence of these factors would reduce individuals’ timely access to healthcare services, but some such access problems almost certainly must arise.
Anticipating these difficulties, some other studies have assumed that M4A payment rates must exceed current-law Medicare payment rates to avoid sending facilities into deficit on average or to avoid triggering unacceptable reductions in the provision and quality of healthcare services. These alternative payment rate assumptions substantially increase the total projected costs of M4A.
Or, as Blahous told us via email, achieving a 40 percent reduction in reimbursement rates is an “unlikely outcome” and “actual costs are likely to be substantially greater.”
“To argue that we can get to that level of savings by getting rid of the health insurance middleman is inconsistent with my study,” Blahous said. “To lend credibility to the $2 trillion savings number specifically, one would have to argue that we can make those 40 percent cuts to providers at the same time as increasing demand by about 11 percent, without triggering disruptions of access to care that lawmakers and the public find unacceptable.”
The report similarly uses assumptions in the Sanders bill about savings on administrative costs and on the cost of prescription drugs. Blahous describes these assumptions as “aggressive” and his report includes arguments that suggest they are unlikely.
Said Blahous: “If you ask somebody ‘How much would something cost?’ and if they responded with, ‘Well, if you assume X the cost would be Y, but that’s an unrealistic assumption, actual costs would be higher’ – it’s not accurate to say ‘He says the cost is Y!’ When I wrote that ‘actual costs’ would be higher, I meant it. And I haven’t simply said that in response to comments like the candidate’s – I had previously put it front and center on the study itself.”
In his report, Blahous provided an alternative-scenario estimate, one that assumed instead that payments to health care providers would “remain equal on average to the current-law blend of higher private and lower public reimbursement rates.” Under that scenario, there would be a net increase in health care spending.
Sanders’ spokesman, Miller-Lewis, argues that the initial assumptions used in the report — the ones based on Sanders’ Medicare for All Act — are legitimate.
The buying power associated with a system that represents all Americans would allow the government to negotiate significant savings in payments to health care providers, as well as on drug prices, Miller-Lewis said.
“The whole point of universal health care is that you’ll get these cost-savings,” he said.
“It’s done everywhere in the world,” he said. “I don’t think we’re making any wrong assumptions.”
There is a certain amount of guesswork in estimating the cost of something as complicated as the health care system, and all of those estimates rely on a multitude of assumptions. We’re not suggesting the assumptions made in the Sanders bill are wrong, only that they aren’t Blahous’ assumptions.
“Proponents are perfectly free to argue for those provider cuts and to say that THEY believe M4A will therefore lower national health spending, — and also to cite whatever data they want in support of their arguments, from any study they find credible,” Blahous told us. “What they shouldn’t say is that I also reached that conclusion, because that’s incorrect. That finding should not be attributed to me or to my study.”
Koch Brothers’ Connection
Both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez referred to the Mercatus Center report as a “Koch brothers-funded study.” They are referring, of course, to the billionaire brothers, Charles and David Koch, who spend hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Republican candidates that support their conservative/libertarian agenda.
Documents published earlier this year show the Koch brothers, at one point at least, used their donations to gain influence over the hiring and firing of professors at the Mercatus Center. An Associated Press story about the donor agreement with the school noted, “The Koch Foundation issued a statement saying the agreements with Mason are ‘old and inactive’ and that newer agreements contain no such provisions.”
Blahous told us his work is not influenced by any donors to the Mercatus Center.
“All I’d say is that my research is totally my own,” Blahous said. “It’s academic research, it goes through a blind review process, and it represents my own work. I choose my own research subjects and follow the facts where they lead. You’d have to ask someone else about where funding comes from, I don’t follow that and it doesn’t affect me.”
We take no position on “Medicare-for-all” and we can’t say if Blahous’ study is or is not influenced by donors to the Mercatus Center. But we can say that Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are misrepresenting the study’s conclusions.
Clarification, Aug. 13, 2018: The first paragraph of this story was updated to include a quote from Charles Blahous, who said the comments made by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez “appear to reflect a misunderstanding of my study.”
A Republican TV ad accuses Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri of profiting from “a corrupt Washington subsidy” — failing to mention that what’s being subsidized is housing for low-income people.
The ad also fails to note that the very news article on which it is based found no evidence that McCaskill had any part in directing those subsidies to her husband’s affordable-housing business. She doesn’t even sit on the committees that oversee such payments.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee released the ad Aug. 8, along with a news release accusing McCaskill and her husband of “running a lucrative grift” and getting rich “at taxpayers’ expense.”
In the ad, the announcer says, “Her husband’s companies received one hundred thirty one million dollars in federal subsidies. McCaskill votes for subsidies. Her husband receives them. They both get rich. And you pay for it.”
The ad is based entirely (but selectively) on a July 24 story in the Kansas City Star and other McClatchy newspapers. The story did indeed report that during McCaskill’s first 11 years as a U.S. senator more than $131 million in federal subsidies have flowed into the hundreds of housing projects in which her husband has invested.
It also reported that he received somewhere between $365,374 and $1,118,158 from his many housing projects in 2017. (Members of Congress report their own and their spouse’s outside income in broad ranges, not exact amounts.)
But the newspaper found nothing “corrupt.” The story also contradicts the ad’s claim that McCaskill’s husband “received” subsidies directly. He didn’t. The story says, “The federal payments don’t go directly into Shepard’s pocket.” Such money “helps apartment owners offer reduced rents to low-income tenants,” according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, one of the agencies that paid the subsidies.
McCaskill’s husband is Joseph Shephard, founder of Sugar Creek Capital, which invests in low-income housing subsidized by federal and state governments alike. He is a limited partner in nearly 300 low-income housing projects in several states, according to McCaskill’s 2017 personal financial disclosure.
Shephard began investing in subsidized low-income housing in the 1970s, decades before he married McCaskill in 2002. Opensecrets.org estimates the couple’s net worth at more than $60 million as of 2015, ranking her as the fifth richest U.S. senator.
But the Star story cited by the NRSC ad found nothing “corrupt” about the subsidies. To the contrary, the story said:
Kansas City Star, July 24: There’s no evidence that McCaskill played any part in directing federal funds to businesses affiliated with her husband.
The senator does not sit on committees that oversee the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agencies that award affordable housing contracts and loans to developers and pay out the subsidies.
She has voted for some massive government spending bills that would have benefited affordable housing programs, but she also voted against others.
We find that the NRSC’s claim that the affordable-housing subsidies are “corrupt” and that Shephard’s business is a “grift” (meaning a petty swindle) are not supported by the facts.
This issue has been raised before.
During McCaskill’s first re-election campaign in 2012, the Associated Press reported that nearly $40 million in low-income housing subsidies had flowed into his businesses during her first five years in office — “though it appears only fraction of that has made it to the family’s bank accounts.”
At the time, her Republican challenger, Rep. Todd Aiken, called that “a conflict of interest and a breach of trust with the citizens of our state.”
But the AP said, “There is no evidence that McCaskill personally routed the money to her husband’s businesses.” McCaskill cruised to victory that year, winning nearly 55 percent of the vote to Aiken’s 39 percent.
In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper looks at two of President Donald Trump’s recent claims about trade.
At an Aug. 2 rally in Pennsylvania, the president falsely claimed the “trade deficit just fell” by $52 billion during the second quarter of 2018. The actual figure is $20 billion, according to the recent federal data on trade in goods and services.
In an Aug. 5 tweet, the president also claimed that his trade policies will help reduce the U.S. debt.
“Because of Tariffs we will be able to start paying down large amounts of the $21 Trillion in debt that has been accumulated, much by the Obama Administration, while at the same time reducing taxes for our people,” Trump tweeted.
In order to reduce the $21 trillion total public debt, the federal government needs to stop running up annual deficits. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the federal deficit this fiscal year will be $804 billion, and the Department of Treasury told CNN that it estimates all tariffs will bring in about $40 billion this year. The $40 billion in revenues from tariffs fall far short of the $804 billion needed to balance the budget.
FactCheck.org and CNN’s “State of the Union” have been collaborating on fact-checking videos since September 2015. Past videos can be found on FactCheck.org.
For more about the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania rally, please see our item, “A Rally Filled with Repeats.“
Q: Did France pass “a law saying having sex with a child is okay”?
A: No. The country already didn’t have a legal consent age. The new law makes it easier to file rape charges against adults who have sex with those 15 or younger.
Saw a post on fb (I know, so it must be true, right? Ha!) About France passing a law saying having sex with a child is okay. Research showed not true. Please post so I can blow this crazy woman out of the water for posting false information.
French law doesn’t include a legal age of consent for sex — an established norm in many Western countries. But that doesn’t mean that “having sex with a child is okay.”
France has had a law on the books that made it illegal to have sex with someone who is 15 or younger — an offense that was punishable by five years of imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.
Last week, the French Parliament gave final approval to legislation that increased those penalties to seven years of imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 euros. The new law also makes it easier to bring rape charges against an adult who has sex with a child 15 years old or younger — a crime that can lead to imprisonment of 20 years.
But the new law did not include a proposed formal age of consent — a failure that has sparked much criticism and confusion. Multiple readers have asked us whether the country actually passed a law that made it acceptable for children to have sex with adults.
That may be in part because of misleading information shared online.
A viral Your News Wire story — headlined “France Passes Law Saying Children Can Consent To Sex With Adults” — began by saying that “President Macron’s government has voted against having an age of consent in France.”
“Federal law in France now has no legal age of consent,” the Aug. 4 story adds.
That’s inaccurate. The country didn’t have a consent age before the new law — and the measure passed didn’t include language about a consent age. So the government didn’t vote “against” one.
Instead, the new law gives prosecutors more grounds to bring rape charges against an adult having sex with a child. It also penalizes street harassment.
Under the existing law, there is no language that says outright that sex with a minor is rape. Cases of rape must involve “violence, coercion, threat or surprise” (though a 2010 law stipulated that moral coercion, or “la contrainte morale,” can result from the age difference between a minor and the perpetrator).
The new law, however, broadens what constitutes rape when an adult has sex with someone 15-years-old or younger. Specifically, it says that the coercion and surprise factors can be characterized by the “abuse of the vulnerability,” if the victim did not have “the necessary discernment for these acts.” Judges will decide whether or not the victim was capable of giving consent, the Associated Press reported, and prosecution of such cases will be permitted for 30 years — instead of 20 — after the victim turns 18.
Regardless of the issue of consent, French law does already penalize the offense, or infraction, of having sex with someone 15 or younger. And the new law upgraded penalties for such abuse to seven years imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 euros.
The rape of a minor, on the other hand, can lead to imprisonment of 20 years.
The new law also suggests that other sex offense charges can be raised if the “existence of violence or coercion, threat or surprise” — the basis of a rape charge — “was disputed during the proceedings.”
France had considered setting a legal age of consent at 15 — prompted by high-profile cases in which men who had sex with minors were not convicted of, or initially charged with, rape. While an early draft of the bill included such language, Reuters reported, officials retreated from that plan following concerns that the measure would be deemed unconstitutional.
The failed attempt to set an age of consent disappointed women’s rights advocates.
“If you do not make it extremely clear in a legal text that it is by default rape, it leaves it up to judges and up to courts to decide,” women’s rights activist Nikita Blanes told Deutsche Welle, a German public broadcaster.
The Your News Wire story, however, claimed France was “the latest nation to give in to pressure from an international network of liberal activists determined to normalize pedophilia and decriminalize sex with children across the world.”
The website, known for posting false information, mixed some accurate details with misleading and incorrect statements.
The story, for example, claimed that “support for the European motion also exists in the United States,” and quoted a supposed University of Michigan cultural anthropologist named Thomas Black. But we could find no record of that person at the university. The chair of the university’s anthropology department, Andrew Shryock, told us that there is no one by that name currently active in the department.
The piece garnered almost 150,000 interactions on Facebook, including nearly 20,000 shares, according to CrowdTangle data. It was also posted on other websites and cited in a 4chan thread titled, “France Legalizes Child Rape.”
The Your News Wire story was given added attention when Judith Collins, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, shared a link to the story on Twitter — prompting some to criticize her for sharing “fake news.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk false stories shared on the social media network.
Corbet, Sylvie. “Fines for Sex Harassment on Streets Approved in France.” Associated Press. 1 Aug 2018.
“France Passes Law Saying Children Can Consent To Sex With Adults.” Your News Wire. 4 Aug 2018.
Reinforcing the fight against sexual and sexist violence. Law 2018-703. 3 Aug 2018.
Shryock, Andrew. Chair, University of Michigan Anthropology Department. Email sent to FactCheck.org. 9 Aug 2018.
The estimated second quarter gross domestic product growth rate of 4.1 percent is not “record” or “close-to-record GDP,” as President Donald Trump recently claimed.
The actual record is four times higher and occurred back in 1950.
The Trump administration has been touting the second quarter number since it was announced July 27 by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Trump continued to do so when listing his administration’s “economic accomplishments” before a dinner with executives from some of the country’s top businesses.
Trump, Aug. 7: I’d like to take this opportunity also to briefly highlight some of the administration’s key economic accomplishments. As you know, we’re doing record and close-to-record GDP. Nobody thought we’d be anywhere above, even close to 2. And we’re at 4.1, and I think we’re going much higher.
But one quarter of 4.1 percent real growth — after accounting for inflation — is neither a record nor close to one.
In fact, there were four quarters of higher growth during just the Obama administration, including one quarter of 5.1 percent growth in 2014.
The actual record is 16.7 percent real GDP growth in the first quarter of 1950, according to the BEA’s seasonally and inflation-adjusted data.
The White House didn’t explain what Trump meant when he said the U.S. is “doing record and close-to-record GDP.”
Even if the president was thinking of the average growth during the first six months of 2018, that also would not be in the ballpark. This year’s average for the first two quarters is nearly 3.2 percent. In 1950, it was almost 14.8 percent.
The economy grew by 2.2 percent in Trump’s first year in office, according to the revised, official BEA estimate for 2017.
In a recent tweet, President Donald Trump said the Trump Tower meeting between his son, other campaign officials and a Russian attorney connected to the Kremlin, which Trump acknowledged was “to get information on an opponent,” was “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”
Or, as his attorney Jay Sekulow put it on ABC’s “This Week” on Aug. 5: “The question is, ‘What law, statute or rule or regulation’s been violated?’ Nobody’s pointed to one.”
But some legal experts disagree. They argue the meeting may have violated election laws or could have amounted to conspiracy to defraud the government.
Trump’s tweet on Aug. 5 pushed back against a Washington Post story that said the president was privately fretting that his son, Donald Trump Jr., “inadvertently may have wandered into legal jeopardy.”
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
Here we explore the possible legal ramifications for the president and his son.
The Trump Tower Meeting
At issue is a June 9, 2016, meeting in which Donald Trump Jr.; Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chairman; and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Sr.’s son-in-law, met at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who, the New York Times said, “has connections to the Kremlin.”
In emails exchanged with Trump Jr. to arrange the meeting, music publicist Rob Goldstone said the meeting was to “provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father [Trump Sr.]. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The younger Trump responded, saying, “[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The following year, on July 8, 2017, when the New York Times broke the story of Donald Trump Jr. arranging the Trump Tower meeting, the younger Trump released a statement saying it was a “short introductory meeting.” He said, “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
The following day, when the Goldstone emails came to light, Donald Trump Jr. said, “[T]he woman [Veselnitskaya] stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
On ABC’s “This Week” on Aug. 5, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s attorneys, was asked about Trump’s tweet that the meeting was legal.
“Well, the question is, how would it be illegal? I mean, the real question here is, would a meeting of that nature constitute a violation — the meeting itself constitute a violation of the law?” Sekulow asked. “The question is what law, statute or rule or regulation’s been violated? Nobody’s pointed to one.”
A ‘Thing of Value’?
The Federal Election Campaign Act, enshrined in the federal code, prohibits foreign nationals, either “directly or indirectly” from making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value” to a campaign. It also makes it illegal for a person to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation” from a foreign national.
The key part regarding the Trump Tower meeting may hinge on the phrase “other thing of value.”
“Yes, there could be crimes here,” David Sklansky, who teaches criminal law at Stanford, told us. “Soliciting campaign assistance from a foreign agent is illegal, although it is unclear whether opposition research counts as assistance for this purpose.”
Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel under President Barack Obama who now teaches at New York University Law School, argued in the Washington Post that it does, in this case, count as a “thing of value.”
“The statute’s written very, very broadly. It applies to promises of support — promises express or implied,” Bauer said. “It applies to independent expenditures, meaning those with express advocacy. It applies to any expenditure, meaning those that may not be express advocacy expenditures but are for the purpose of influencing the federal election. It applies to disbursements. It is extremely broad.”
But not all legal experts agree that damaging information on Clinton would be deemed a “thing of value” for legal purposes. In a blog post for the Washington Post, Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, argues that if “politically useful information about a candidate’s opponent is in general a thing of value” then the law is legally “substantially overbroad” and unconstitutional. And if, he argues, a “thing of value” does not include information, “then Donald Trump Jr.’s expression of willingness to accept such information from foreigners (including ones linked to foreign governments) wouldn’t be covered by the statute.”
“The phrase ‘contribution or donation’ sounds like a gift to help fund the campaign or give them something they otherwise would buy,” Orin Kerr, a University of Southern California professor and former federal prosecutor, told the New York Times.
Defrauding the U.S. Government?
Even if it were determined that the opposition research offered by the Russians did not amount to a “thing of value,” it doesn’t mean Trump Jr. and others are in the clear, Sklansky told us.
“Conspiring to hide campaign activity from the FEC [Federal Election Commission], or conspiring to hide the activities of a foreign agent from the DOJ [Department of Justice], could be a conspiracy to defraud the United States, depending on the details,” he said.
The special counsel’s office charged three Russian organizations and 13 Russian nationals in February with violating U.S. criminal laws to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, which included spending “millions of dollars” on a pro-Trump social media campaign. The indictment specifically alleged the defendants conspired to defraud the United States “by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.”
With regard to the FEC, the “lawful functions” the conspirators were alleged to have interfered with, the indictment states, were its “statutory duties of providing the American public with accurate data about the financial activities of individuals and entities supporting federal candidates, and enforcing FECA’s limits and prohibitions, including the ban on foreign expenditures.”
And then there is the question of obstruction, and whether Trump Jr.’s initial, misleading response to the media about the purpose of the meeting — which Trump’s legal team later acknowledged the president “dictated” — could be construed as part of a pattern of obstruction.
“It’s a crime to corruptly attempt to obstruct a lawful criminal investigation,” Sklansky said. “It’s very clear that President Trump has tried repeatedly to derail the investigation into ties between his campaign and Russia; the question has been why — was it because he honestly believed there was nothing there, or because he knew there was something there? The fact that the meeting was really an effort to get dirt from the Russians on Clinton, and that Trump had his son to lie about it, is strong evidence that it’s the latter–which is to say, it’s strong that President Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.”
That’s a legal opinion, and as we said, there are other legal experts who disagree. But suffice to say Trump’s proclamation that the meeting was “totally legal” is a matter of dispute among legal scholars.
Is Collusion a Crime?
Almost all legal scholars, however, warn not to put much stock in the recent claims by Trump and his attorneys that “collusion is not a crime.”
“I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime,” Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said in a July 30 “Fox & Friends” interview. “Collusion is not a crime.” The same day, on CNN’s “New Day,” Giuliani said, “You start analyzing the crime — the hacking is the crime.”
(Giuliani was referring to the July 13 indictment that charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking into “the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.”)
In a tweet, the president repeated Giuliani’s claim that “collusion is not a crime.”
Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
“Don’t be fooled by word games,” Victoria Nourse, a professor at Georgetown Law, told us via email. “There is no legal term ‘collusion.’ The legal term for collusion is the crime of conspiracy. If you agree to kill someone and take a step toward that (hired the killer, or encouraged the killer, met with the killer) you are guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
“So, if you agree to defraud the U.S. or disrupt the elections (even if it’s not with the Russians) and you take a step forward (any step….meetings, payments etc.), that’s conspiracy,” Nourse said.
Stephen Schulhofer, a law professor at New York University, said the act of collusion can be either benign or criminal, depending on the circumstance.
“One of the most commonly used provisions of the U.S. Code, 18 USC §371, makes it a federal crime for two or more people to conspire ‘to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose,'” Schulhofer told us via email. “Agreeing (colluding) with someone for a perfectly lawful purpose, like arranging a game of golf or tennis, is not a crime. But colluding with the Russians, i.e. agreeing to cooperate, encourage or assist them in any way in pursuing anything they were doing that was illegal, is most certainly a crime.”
Or, as Sklansky told us, “Whether it is a crime depends on what you are colluding about.”
Sklansky also challenged Giuliani’s assertion that the only real crime was the hacking of the DNC servers.
“It’s a red herring to suggest that hacking is the only crime that could have been committed here,” Sklansky said.
Hacking is one crime, he said, but you don’t have to be guilty of hacking to be guilty of obstruction of justice or criminal conspiracy or soliciting a foreign agent in a campaign.