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Fact checking and analyzing the first presidential debate

Our team of in-house experts analyzed, fact checked and added context to the candidates’ statements as the debate happened. Here’s what they found:

“The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together. Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot.”

More on that…
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are grandparents. This is the first time that has been true of both major party nominees since 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against then President Herbert Hoover.
— Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent

“I also want to see more companies do profit-sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.”

More on that…
Clinton mentions profit-sharing in her opening. Will she talk about worker ownership at some point?
— Paul Solman, Business and economics correspondent

“Under my plan, I’ll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”

Here’s what we know…
Donald Trump proposes to cut corporate taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent, but he also says he would end some unspecified corporate loopholes. For individuals, Trump proposes cutting taxes for all income groups, not just the wealthy.
— Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent

Here’s what we know…
Trump’s revised tax plan does cut for all income groups, but an independent analysis by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation also found that the wealthiest taxpayers would see a much larger tax break than the middle class or lower-income. That’s to be expected at some level because of the amount of income the wealthiest are earning and the taxes they pay. But the Tax Foundation analysis suggested the Trump plan would not reduce taxes tremendously for everyone. It found the top 1 percent would get a 10 to 16 percent boost in after-tax income. Those in middle-class tax brackets would get a smaller break, somewhere between 1 to 2 percent in after-tax income. It should be said that Clinton’s plans do not call for any significant tax relief for the middle class, though she puts her emphasis on other economic proposals for the middle-class and lower-income Americans with a big hike on the wealthiest taxpayers.
— Murrey Jacobson, Senior Producer of National Affairs

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“We need new jobs, good jobs with rising incomes. I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy…​”

More on that…
You know what creates jobs? Renewable energy. In fact, clean energy jobs surpassed oil and natural gas last year, with jobs in the solar industry growing 12 times faster than overall job creation.
— Nsikan Akpan, Science producer

“CLINTON: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese.
TRUMP: I did not — I do not say that.
CLINTON: I think it’s real…
TRUMP: I do not say that —
CLINTON: …and I think that we grip this and deal with it, both at home and abroad.

Here’s what we know…
In January 2014, Trump tweeted:

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

His policy positions include withdrawing from the Paris agreement limiting carbon emissions and removing carbon emission caps on U.S. power plants.
— Margaret Warner, Chief foreign correspondent

“They’ve looked at my plans and they’ve said, OK, if we can do this, and I intend to get it done, we will have 10 million more new jobs, because we will be making investments where we can grow the economy.”

A reminder…
Hillary Clinton said her proposals will create 10 million new jobs. When Clinton says that, she’s citing a Moody’s Analytics analysis conducted by economist Mark Zandi and others. FactCheck.org looked at this analysis and provided further caveats.

Moody’s Analytics concluded that if Clinton were able to fully implement the plans she has outlined in her campaign, the economy would add 10.4 million jobs during Clinton’s presidency. But that’s just 3.2 million more than it projects would be added under current law.​

Moreover, Moody’s Analytics doesn’t expect Clinton would likely be able to pass all of her proposals through a divided Congress. “Given the current political discord,” Moody’s expects Congress would put up “substantial roadblocks” to Clinton’s policy proposals. Even under its “most-likely scenario,” concludes Moody’s, a Clinton presidency would result in employment going just “a bit higher” than it otherwise would — putting the U.S. on a path to create 1.5 million more jobs over 10 years than is expected under current law.
— Murrey Jacobson, Senior producer of National Affairs

“TRUMP: And now you want to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership. You were totally in favor of it. Then you heard what I was saying, how bad it is, and you said, ‘I can’t win that debate.’ But you know that if you did win, you would approve that, and that will be almost as bad as NAFTA. Nothing will ever top NAFTA.”
CLINTON: “Well, that is just not accurate. I was against it once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out. I wrote about that in —
TRUMP: “You called it the gold standard. You called it the gold standard of trade deals. You said it’s the finest deal you’ve ever seen.”
TRUMP: “And then you heard what I said about it, and all of a sudden you were against it.”

Here’s what we know…
Clinton is walking a very tricky line here. At a 2012 speech in Australia, then Secretary Clinton did endorse the Trans Pacific Partnership. She is now trying to say that endorsement was aspirational. But look at the remarks. She said, “this TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” In 2014, Clinton became more reserved on the potential deal. But in 2012, she said TPP was the gold standard. Not that she hoped it would be.
— Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent


“I’ve been under audit almost for 15 years. I know a lot of wealthy people that have never been audited. I say, ‘Do you get audited?’ I get audited almost every year. And in a way, I should be complaining. I’m not even complaining. I don’t mind it. It’s almost become a way of life. I get audited by the IRS, but other people don’t. I will say this: We have a situation in this country that has to be taken care of. I will release my tax returns against my lawyers’ wishes when she releases her 33,000 emails that have been deleted.”

Here’s what we know…
Trump’s tax attorneys wrote that his taxes have been audited since 2002, so the 15 years figure is correct. But nearly half of those audits, from 2002 to 2008, are closed. He could release those without fear of IRS problems.

More on that…
The 33,000 emails deleted from Hillary Clinton’s servers by her staff seem to be unrecoverable — neither the FBI nor other investigations could recover them. Thus, when Trump offers to release his taxes if Clinton would release her deleted emails, he might as well offer to release his taxes if someone could provide the missing 18 minutes from the Nixon Watergate tape.

— Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent

“We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, according to a report I just saw.”

Here’s what we know…
That report cited by Donald Trump is (likely) this report from professor Neta Crawford at Brown University, who tabulated not only what has been spent during 15 years of war in Afghanistan and 13-plus years in Iraq, but the operations in Syria to repel ISIS, and the secret war the U.S. has fought against al Qaida and other militant groups in Pakistan. The costs also count future operations and the generational costs accrued to care for veterans of these wars since 9/11​.
— Morgan Till, Senior producer of Foreign Affairs

“What do we do here in the United States? That’s the most important part of this. How do we prevent attacks? How do we protect our people? And I think we’ve got to have an intelligence surge, where we are looking for every scrap of information.”

More on that…
The debate over how to prevent attacks in the United States centers, in part, on what’s called “combatting violent extremism.” It’s a theory used to prevent the radicalization of young people predominantly, and it has both fervent supporters and severe detractors.

Supporters say it provides “off-ramps” for people who entertain radical ideas. Its detractors say it encourages suspicion with communities — in many cases, Muslim communities — and a culture of informing. In Western Europe, the programs work in many cases, with substantial government involvement.

The United States government is only now creating official programs on combatting violent extremism. The reason it’s happening only now? For years, the modus operandi of U.S. law enforcement was to do one of two things: either turn potential radicals into informants, or arrest them.

The NewsHour has covered this topic in depth. Producer P.J. Tobia reported on this topic in July, and anchor Hari Sreenivasan profiled former radical Jesse Morton last month. Morton is now working with George Washington University within its program on the study of extremism, which seeks to study and prevent the same.
— Morgan Till, Senior producer of Foreign Affairs


“We have to bring back law and order. Now, whether or not, in a place like Chicago, you do stop-and-frisk, which worked very well — Mayor Giuliani is here — worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down…”

More on that…
Stop-and-frisk has become a very controversial policy, one that has ended up in the courts as both Trump and Holt referred to tonight. Its proponents say it does work at reducing crime and violence. But The Washington Post’s fact checker has pointed out that prior claims Trump has made about the value of stop-and-frisk is not nearly as clear as he suggests. It pointed out that even after stop-and-frisk was stopped in 2013, crime rates continued to fall in New York​, suggesting that it’s hard to attribute crime rate drops directly to the policy.​
— Murrey Jacobson, Senior producer of National Affairs


TRUMP: “I was against the war in Iraq. Just so you put it out –”

LESTER HOLT: “The record shows otherwise. So why is your judgment–”

TRUMP: “…The record shows that I’m right. When I did an interview with Howard Stern — very lightly, first time anyone’s ever asked me that — I said, very lightly, ‘I dunno. Maybe. Who knows?’”

Here’s what we know…
As we saw from Trump’s lengthy defense, he feels strongly that he has always opposed the Iraq War. But the audio indicates differently.

It all comes down to one syllable: “Yeah.” On Sept. 11, 2002, Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion. He responded, “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
–Lisa Desjardins, correspondent


CLINTON: “Now police are having to handle a lot of really difficult mental health challenges on the street. They want support, they want more training, more assistance. And I think the federal government could be in a position where we could offer and provide that.”

Here’s what we know…
Both candidates have advocated for substantive mental health care reform and say that law enforcement officers will play a crucial role.

Clinton has released a detailed plan pushing for early diagnosis and intervention, better integration of the nation’s mental and physical health care systems, better training of law enforcement officers in crisis intervention, and “prioritizing treatment over jail for non-violent, low-level offenders.”

Trump has released far fewer details, calling for more support for families that are looking for tools to help their loved ones. He also supports “promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support” (without specifying which ones he supports).

In response to a questionnaire from the International Association of Chiefs of Police about law enforcement’s role, Trump stated that “unfortunately, law enforcement will have to continue to play a role in how we proceed as a nation with mental health reform.”
–Jason Kane, Health producer

So Ford is leaving. You see that, their small car division leaving. Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They’re all leaving. And we can’t allow it to happen anymore.

Here’s what we know…

It is true that Ford is opening a plant in Mexico. But Ford’s CEO has denied the opening of that plant will mean cutting jobs in the U.S. More here ​from the Detroit News.
–Murrey Jacobson, Senior Producer of National Affairs


“And we have a Fed that’s doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed. The Fed is doing political — by keeping the interest rates at this level. And believe me, the day Obama goes off, and he leaves, and goes out to the golf course for the rest of his life to play golf when they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen, because the Fed is not doing their job. The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton.”

More on that…

As the New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum wrote tonight​, “This is a baseless accusation.” The Federal Reserve’s actions have been criticized and suspected for political motives multiple times, including former Fed chair Alan Greenspan’s decision to endorse President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and former Chairman Ben Bernanke’s decisions to bail out banks during the financial crisis. Its actions have also been scrutinized and criticized in prior election seasons.

The Los Angeles Times reminds us that White House recordings show President Richard Nixon tried to pressure Fed Chairman Arthur Burns. And that President George H.W. Bush attributed part of his re-election loss on then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

But let’s be clear: So far, Trump has not offered anything beyond an assertion for his allegation. It is true the Fed has not raised rates recently even though many observers once thought a second rate increase was likely this year. But the Fed rarely raises or cuts rates in the months right before an election.

More significantly, most experts strongly say that jobs growth, unemployment, inflation and multiple other economic measures (including the strength or lack thereof a recovery, not to mention global growth) are what drive the decisions of Yellen and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Moreover, just last week, Yellen adamantly denied any political influence into the Fed’s decision-making.

One other point: Mr. Trump endorsed leaving interest rates where they were just last May. ​
–Murrey Jacobson, Senior producer of National Affairs

LESTER HOLT: One of you will not win this election. So my final question to you tonight: Are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters? Secretary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I support our democracy. And sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But I certainly will support the outcome of this election…

LESTER HOLT: …Will you accept the outcome of the election?

DONALD TRUMP: I want to make America great again. I’m gonna be able to do it; I don’t believe Hillary will. The answer is: If she wins, I will absolutely support her.

More on that…
This was an important moment. Donald Trump, in particular, has warned that he thinks the election could be rigged. That has led to headlines fearing unrest should Trump lose. Having both candidates state clearly that they will support the results of the election brought some much-needed de-escalation to that discussion. That does not mean the risk of unrest is erased. But it was significant for this country, which prides itself on a regular, peaceful transition of power.

–Lisa Desjardins, Correspondent

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