Day 2 of GOP convention speeches: CNN vets the claims

Story highlights

  • Reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened to the speeches
  • CNN rated key statements as either true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated

(CNN)The Republican Party gathered in Cleveland on Tuesday for the second night of its convention, and CNN's Reality Check Team put the speakers' statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the speeches and selected key statements, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

    Reality Check: Christie on Clinton and China
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Christie attacked Clinton on multiple points, including the accusation that Hillary Clinton wanted the Chinese to purchase U.S. debt to help the Obama administration.
    "In China, Hillary Clinton praised the Chinese government for buying our debt to finance Barack Obama's bloated stimulus plan," he said.
    In February 2009, soon after being named secretary of state, Clinton traveled to China and urged Beijing to keep buying U.S. debt, according to media reports at the time. In an interview on Chinese television quoted by Reuters, Clinton said that China made a "wise" choice by buying United States debt instruments.
    Based on these reports, we rate Christie's statement as true.
    Reality Check: Christie on Clinton and 'bring back our girls'
    By Ryan Browne, CNN
    Christie also hammered Clinton with a series of charges about her failures while serving as secretary of state.
    He was particularly critical over Clinton's handling of the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria.
    "In Nigeria, Hillary Clinton amazingly fought for two years to keep an al Qaeda affiliate off the terrorist watch list," Christie said.
    Boko Haram, an affiliate of al Qaeda, was never designated a foreign terrorist organization during Clinton's leadership of the State Department. The department eventually labeled the group a terrorist organization while under Kerry in December 2013.
    According to a report obtained by Reuters, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco had lobbied Clinton's State Department to designate the group a terrorist organization in 2012.
    The Daily Beast also reported on the State Department's hesitancy during Clinton's tenure to designate the group a terrorist organization, noting that a group of bipartisan members of Congress had also lobbied the department to put the group on the list, with some members saying that the designation would allow U.S. law enforcement personnel to work more closely with governments in the region.
    The kidnapping of the 200 Nigerian school girls occurred in April 2014.
    While Clinton was head of the State Department at the time, Christie says she "fought" to keep them off the list and there is no evidence that she herself was personally responsible for the delay in the designation. Our verdict: false.
    Christie went on to add: "Because of this reckless action by the candidate who is the self-proclaimed champion of women all around the world. These al Qaeda terrorists abducted hundreds of innocent young women two years ago. These school girls are still missing today. And what was the solution from the Obama/Clinton team? A hashtag campaign."
    While Clinton did tweet out the hashtag "bring back our girls" in the wake of the kidnapping, she was no longer in office when the kidnapping occurred. It's impossible to know whether a U.S. terror designation would have made any difference in the girls' kidnapping.
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    President Barack Obama did authorize the deployment of 80 U.S. troops to neighboring Chad about a month after the event in an effort to aid in their search.
    Therefore we rate the claim that the "solution from the Obama/Clinton team" was a "hashtag campaign" as false.
    Reality Check: Christie calls Clinton 'chief engineer' of Gadhafi's overthrow
    By Eve Bower, CNN
    Christie assumed the role of prosecutor on the RNC stage, arguing that Clinton's policy in Libya made her "guilty" of "ruining Libya" and "creating a nest for terrorist activity by ISIS."
    He labeled her the "chief engineer" of the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, saying Clinton's "grand strategy" in Libya was to blame for the North African state's current calamity.
    In early 2011, as protests spread like wildfire from Tunisia to Egypt and then Libya, the world watched for weeks as Libyan security forces used increasingly brutal methods to suppress the uprisings. By mid-February, there seemed to be a coalition of European powers emerging in support of implementing a no-fly zone over Libya. The approach would decisively change the course of events in Libya, and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy seemed eager to take the lead.
    In the U.S., Obama had been elected, in part, on the basis of his opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq, and he was deeply reluctant to engage in open-ended overseas military conflict. But Sarkozy saw himself in a different situation altogether: having campaigned on his desire to enhance France's position in the Arab world, Sarkozy promised France "would be side by side with the oppressed." When the uprising in Libya began, Sarkozy saw an opportunity to make his mark.
    Though Clinton would ultimately be described as one of the most hawkish voices on Libya in the Obama administration, senior U.S. officials say that Clinton was initially skeptical of U.S. involvement in this international coalition. Obama at first tried a less interventionist approach, signing an executive order freezing Gadhafi's assets, and then backing a UN Security Council resolution to impose sanctions.
    Days later, France and Britain pushed the UN Security Council for a quick resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone, but Clinton, still reluctant, chose instead to work with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to buy time in which to build broader international support for the move.
    But by mid-March, as intelligence warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis if government forces took on rebel-stronghold Benghazi, aides say Clinton shifted and became convinced that an immediate no-fly zone was necessary. The Security Council resolution passed March 17.
    Yet even after it was decided that a coalition of NATO members would enforce the resolution, France remained eager to take the lead. On March 19, hours before the air campaign's official start, French jets attacked Libyan government tanks on their way to Benghazi.
    Where the Obama administration had been reluctant to be seen as jumping into another war, Republicans at the time used the administration's own words against it, describing the U.S. role, with some sarcasm, as "leading from behind."
    In the first weeks after Gadhafi's fall, when Libya's short-term future seemed more hopeful, sources in the administration were eager to credit Secretary Clinton for her work helping to build an international coalition -- and Clinton was happy to take it. "Our response," Clinton has said, was "smart power at its best."
    But because Clinton was neither the first to call for military intervention, nor the only one to plan the administration's handling of the aftermath, we rate Christie's claim false.

    Donald Trump Jr.

    Reality Check: Donald Trump Jr. on his father's campaign funding
    By Juana Summers and Sonam Vashi, CNN
    Donald Trump Jr. said his father would be "a President not beholden to special interests, foreign and domestic and one who funded his entire primary run out of his own pocket just to prove it."
    It's a claim we've heard again and again.
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    Although Trump has sunk a significant amount of his own money into his campaign, CNN has found that he received about $14 million in campaign contributions from 8,200 individual donors through the end of April.
    Trump has loaned his campaign 76% of the the $57.7 million that the campaign has received through the end of April, according to the Federal Election Commission. While he's funded a vast majority of his campaign, he's also taken millions from outside donors -- not just funding entirely out of his own pocket. His son's claim is false.
    Reality Check: Donald Trump Jr. on Clinton 'destroying' Medicare
    By Amy Gallagher, CNN
    The younger Donald Trump compared his father's proposals to those of Clinton's.
    "We're going to elect a President ... who will repeal and replace Obamacare without leaving our most vulnerable citizens without health care," Trump Jr. said, "and who will do it without destroying Medicare for seniors as Hillary Clinton has proposed."
    But did Clinton really propose to end Medicare?
    Earlier this month, Clinton tweaked her previous stance on health care as a nod to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Her most recent position proposes expanding Medicare as an option to adults as young as 50. This expansion is why some conservative pundits have suggested that Clinton could destroy Medicare, since it invites more people into an already overloaded system.
    "Medicare is stretched so thin to meet the needs of today's seniors that expanding enrollment is like inviting the neighborhood for dinner when you don't have enough to feed your own kids," wrote Fox News commentator Betsy McCaughey in the online news outlet Newsmax.
    So is expanding Medicare likely to destroy it? Medicare does have serious solvency problems, and is currently set to run out of funds by 2028. Therefore, it would seem likely that any expansion of the program would exacerbate those problems and shorten the life of the program. However, as a historically popular program, it is unlikely that Medicare will be allowed to go bankrupt.
    Despite being criticized by the likes of former President Ronald Reagan, the program has continued to expand since its creation -- under both Democrats and Republicans. In fact, even several small-government conservatives have expanded it -- including Reagan, former President Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.
    It seems likely that the next president, whoever it may be, would look for ways to shore up Medicare, rather than let it die.
    Therefore, we rate Donald Trump Jr.'s claim that Clinton has proposed destroying Medicare false, however you read the phrase -- Clinton has not proposed to destroy Medicare, but to expand it. While an expansion might strain the system, it is unlikely the system would be allowed to collapse.

    Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

    Reality Check: Carson on Saul Alinsky, Lucifer and Clinton role model
    By Julie Block, CNN
    Carson claimed that one of Clinton's "mentors was Saul Alinsky ... someone that she greatly admired and that affected all of her philosophies subsequently." He also said Clinton wrote her college thesis on Alinsky's writings, and that the dedication page for Alinsky's book, entitled, "Rules for Radicals," acknowledges Lucifer.
    Alinksy was a community activist, regarded as a radical in the mid-20th century for his teachings about people's empowerment.
    Clinton did write her college thesis on Alinsky's life, writings and political views, though much of her thesis was analytical. The conclusion of the thesis reads: "In the first chapter it was pointed out that Alinsky is regarded by many as the proponent of a dangerous socio/political philosophy. As such, he has been feared -- just as Eugene Debs or Walt Whitman or Martin Luther King has been feared, because each embraced the most radical of political faiths -- democracy." This comparison to Debs, Whitman and King, along with Clinton's continued exchange of letters with Alinsky well into her law school years, suggests that Clinton had a deep respect for Alinsky.
    Indeed, Alinsky personally acknowledged Lucifer in his book, published in 1971. He wrote, "Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins -- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom."
    Additionally, a Washington Post piece written in 2007 suggests Alinsky had great influence over Clinton's political ideology, causing her to switch from a Republican to a Democrat. The article reads, "Arriving at Wellesley, she became president of the Young Republicans, but she soon drifted left. She said that 1968, the year she met Alinsky in Chicago, was a watershed in her 'personal and political evolution,' marked by the escalation of the Vietnam War and the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy." The paper also noted, however, that Clinton wrote in her 2003 memoir, "Living History," that Clinton and Alinsky had a "fundamental disagreement" about how to change the system. Because of this, it is a stretch for Carson to say that Alinsky affected "all of her philosophies subsequently."
    Verdict: Mostly true.

    RNC co-chair Sharon Day

    Reality Check: Day on Clinton Foundation money
    By Sonam Vashi, CNN
    "As head of a foundation, you accepted tens of millions of dollars from foreign countries who enslave women and who treat them as second-class citizens," Day said, referring to Clinton.
    The Clinton Foundation has accepted millions from foreign governments, according to its website, which lists cumulative amounts. Saudi Arabia, Australia and Norway each gave the Foundation between $10 million and $25 million; the Netherlands and Kuwait gave between $5 million and $10 million; and Qatar, Brunei, Oman and the United Arab Emirates gave between $1 million and $5 million.
    Given that slavery is illegal in all countries but modern-day slavery exists in many countries to varying degrees, we're going to look at the women's rights records of these top donor countries instead. (Note: for these indices, a rank with a smaller number generally denotes better treatment of women in that country.)
    According to 2014 data from the United Nations' Gender Inequality Index, Qatar ranks 116th out of 155 countries for gender inequality. Kuwait (79th), Saudi Arabia (56th), Oman (53rd), and the United Arab Emirates (47th) all rank in a middle-performing range, while the Netherlands (7th), Norway (9th), and Australia (19th), all ranking in a higher-performing range, treat women more equally. For context, the United States is ranked 55th in this index. (Brunei was not included in the overall ranking for this index).
    To compare with another index: The World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Gender Gap Report shows that Oman ranks poorly (135th out of 145 countries), as does Saudi Arabia (134th), Qatar (122nd), the United Arab Emirates (119th), and Kuwait (117th). Brunei was ranked 88th, Australia was ranked 36th, and Norway and the Netherlands were both in the top 15. The United States was ranked 28th.
    Given that at least some of the countries who donated millions to the Clinton Foundation have poor records in regards to women's rights, we rate Day's claim as true.

    NRA official Chris Cox

    Reality Check: Clinton and the Second Amendment
    By Chip Grabow, CNN
    Gun rights was the focus Tuesday night in a speech by Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action. He targeted Clinton's stance on guns and the Second Amendment, which reads in part that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Cox claimed Clinton wants to take away that right.
    Cox referenced a 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns, which the court said violated the Second Amendment. The court said it violated the Second Amendment. Cox said Clinton disagreed with the decision: "She said, 'The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.' Think about that. All the Supreme Court said was that you have the right to protect your life in your own home but Hillary says they're wrong."
    But Cox went further, saying that "a Hillary Clinton Supreme Court means your right to own a firearm is gone." That echoes claims made by Trump that Clinton would abolish the Second Amendment if elected president.
    In a leaked recording of a private fundraiser last year, Clinton was heard saying, "The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment," referring to that 2008 ruling.
    But in a statement earlier this year, apparently clarifying Clinton's comments about that decision, a policy adviser to Clinton told Bloomberg Politics: "Clinton believes Heller was wrongly decided in that cities and states should have the power to craft common sense laws to keep their residents safe, like safe storage laws to prevent toddlers from accessing guns." The statement went on to say, "In overturning Washington, D.C.'s safe storage law, Clinton worries that Heller may open the door to overturning thoughtful, common sense safety measures in the future."
    Clinton has also been on-the-record about her views of the Second Amendment. She told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that "I believe we can have common sense gun safety measures consistent with the Second Amendment, and, in fact, what I have proposed is supported by 90% of the American people and more than 75% of responsible gun owners.
    So, is Cox correct in his claim that Clinton would abolish the Second Amendment?
    As CNN reported in May: "Clinton ... has called for universal background checks and stricter controls on firearms, but has never called for the abolition of the Second Amendment. In fact, on her website, she calls gun ownership "part of the fabric of many law-abiding communities."
    Verdict: False.

    Donald Trump

    Reality Check: Trump on winning by the most votes in history
    By Sonam Vashi, CNN
    Trump appeared at the convention by satellite to accept his official nomination. "Together, we've achieved historic results with the largest vote total in the history of the Republican Party," he said.
    Former President George W. Bush held the previous record in 2000, with 10.8 million votes. CNN estimates that Trump holds almost 14 million raw votes. That's after record-setting turnouts this year during the primary season.
    However, Trump also holds a record for the number of people that voted for other Republican candidates. CNN estimates 15.7 million people voted for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich or another Republican candidate -- which means more people voted against Trump in the primaries than for him. The previous record for "most votes against" in a Republican primary was held by Arizona Sen. John McCain.
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    So, while Trump does have the largest raw vote total in a Republican primary, we rate his claim true, but misleading, since that number clearly doesn't reflect unified Republican support for his candidacy.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan

    Reality Check: Ryan on poverty
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Obama and progressives such as him have let down the poor in America, according to Ryan.
    "Under the most liberal President we have had so far, poverty in America is worse, especially for our fellow citizens who are promised better and who need it most," Ryan said.
    It's true that the poverty rate has increased during Obama's presidency. It rose from 13.2% in 2008, just before Obama took office, to a high of 15.1% in 2010, in the wake of the Great Recession. As the economy has improved, the share of Americans in poverty has drifted down to 14.8% as of 2014, the most recent year for which federal statistics are available.

    Ex-AG Michael Mukasey

    Reality Check: Mukasey on Clinton emails
    By Eve Bower, CNN
    Citing Clinton's use of a private email server while leading the State Department, Mukasey used his platform at the convention Tuesday to argue that Clinton had "violated" her oath to uphold the Constitution. Mukasey did not cite which part of the Constitution he feels she breached. But following extensive investigations by the FBI, the Justice Department and the State Department's Inspector General, no government entity has found basis for pressing charges against Hillary Clinton.
    Nonetheless, let's break Mukasey's claims down one by one.
    Mukasey said, "We now know that she chose to use her private email overseas." This is true. Earlier this month, when FBI Director James Comey spoke about the findings of his department's investigation into Clinton's emails, he said Clinton "used her personal email extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related emails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries." Based on this, Comey said, "It is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton's personal email account."
    But Comey concluded that "no reasonable prosecutor" would bring a case on this basis.
    Mukasey also spoke of Clinton's email server, arguing that it "was so remarkably primitive the FBI could not figure out whether or not it had been hacked," and, "we do know that the emails of people she communicated with were hacked."
    It is true that the FBI believes that "hostile actors" gained access to the email accounts of people with whom Clinton was in "regular contact." But it is not clear that a more advanced server could have thwarted a sophisticated hacker, and indeed, the most sophisticated attacks rarely leave evidence of their presence.
    Mukasey argued that Clinton had "sent and received secret, and top secret, and beyond top secret information and emails on an unsecure private email system instead of on the secure government system. And she did it without authorization."
    The State Department had initially said that none of the information on Clinton's server was classified at the time it was sent or received, but some of it was given restricted classifications afterward. But Comey's investigation found that a small number of the emails were marked classified at the time they were sent or received. Of the 30,490 emails Clinton gave investigators, Comey said, three emails were in this category.
    Clinton has also maintained that she had permission to use personal email. But a report by the State Department's Inspector General "found no evidence that the secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server."
    The relevant laws that are in place to preserve transparency in government records were not enacted until 2014, after Clinton left office. And neither the FBI nor the Justice Department found that a criminal case was warranted. But Clinton's former colleagues at the State Department did find that she was in violation of "government policy."
    Mukasey made three accusations that have been hotly debated for more than one year. Based on the findings of the investigations that have come out of this controversy, we rate Mukasey's claims as true.
    Editor's note: An earlier version of this Reality Check misstated the number of emails that were marked "classified" at the time they were sent or received.

    House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy

    Reality Check: McCarthy on fairer taxes
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    McCarthy ticked off the ways the Republican agenda would help the nation.
    Among them, he said, "our taxes will be fairer."
    The Republican Party platform calls for establishing a pro-growth tax code, calling it a "moral imperative."
    "Getting our tax system right will be the most important factor in driving the entire economy back to prosperity," it reads.
    For Republicans, tax reform usually means cutting rates for the wealthy in order to stimulate economic growth, which will then trickle down to benefit all Americans.
    That's what Trump wants to do. His tax plan would give the wealthy far bigger breaks than the middle class or working Americans. His proposal calls for reducing the current seven tax brackets to four and cutting the top rate on the wealthy to 25%, from 39.6%. It would also eliminate the estate tax, which affects only the very wealthy, and the Alternative Minimum Tax, which ensnares many affluent families.
    Bottom line for taxpayers:
    Middle-income Americans would see a federal tax cut of $2,700, or 4.9% of their after-tax income, on average, according to a Tax Policy Center analysis.
    The top 1% would see a whopping $275,250 reduction in their federal tax bill, or 17.5% of their after-tax income.
    Whether you consider this fairer depends on your place on the economic ladder. If you are wealthy, you may consider this fairer, but if you aren't, you may wonder why the rich are getting such a big break.
    Verdict: It's complicated.

    West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

    Reality Check: Capito on Clinton and coal miners' jobs
    By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney
    Capito ripped into Obama and Clinton for supporting policies that have hurt coal mining, a key industry in her state.
    "His recklessness has cost more than 60,000 coal workers their jobs since 2011," Capito said of Obama. "Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton has already promised 'to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.'"
    There's no question that coal mining is on the decline, but it's been on a steady downward slope long before Obama took office. Government regulations and the rise of cleaner natural gas as a popular energy source have hurt the coal industry. Four big coal mining companies have filed for bankruptcy in the past two years.
    That said, Obama has not been a great friend of the coal industry, favoring instead clean energy. He's also made addressing climate change a priority. Earlier this year, the Interior Department instituted a pause on issuing new coal leases on public lands while it reviews the federal coal program.
    Coal miners have lost jobs, though not as many as Capito cited. According to the Mine Safety & Health Administration, a government agency that's part of the Department of Labor, there were 127,977 individuals (employees and contractors) working in coal mining in the first quarter of 2011. In the first quarter of 2016, that number has fallen to 78,359. That's a decline of 49,618 jobs.
    To give some perspective, back in 1986, there were more than 185,167 people working in coal mines.
    So on the number of coal workers who've lost their jobs, we rate Capito's claim false.
    Clinton, however, did actually say at a CNN town hall in March that as President, she'd put a lot of coal miners and companies out of business. She later called it a misstatement, saying she meant that coal miners would continue losing jobs the way things were going.
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    Clinton has proposed "revitalizing" coal country with $30 billion in investment aimed at retraining former coal miners, protecting health and pension benefits for mineworkers and attracting investment to counties impacted with layoffs. She has also pledged to invest federal funds in clean coal technology.
    So it's true that Clinton said she'd put coal miners out of work.
    EDITOR'S NOTE: This Reality Check has been updated as the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures previously used did not include contractors.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

    Reality Check: McConnell on Clinton and Keystone positions
    By Chip Grabow, CNN
    McConnell said, "Hillary has changed her positions so many times, it's impossible to tell where the conviction ends and the ambition begins." He cited various policy examples, including the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
    McConnell added: "Once a backer of the Keystone Pipeline, last year she opposed it."
    Clinton made her opposition to the project clear in September 2015. She was answering a question about climate change from a college student who was against the pipeline. Clinton said she opposed the project: "I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone Pipeline as what I believe it is: a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues. Therefore, I oppose it."
    But what was her position prior to that time? An analysis of some of her past comments about Keystone show something less definitive.
    "Inclined" to back it was her answer in October 2010 when Clinton, then secretary of state, discussed the project at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. There she was careful to add: "We haven't finished all of the analysis ... we've not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so."
    Then, in June 2014: "I can't really comment at great length ... the Obama administration is trying to get it right" was her answer while speaking to Canada's Globe and Mail. When pressed on the question, Clinton said, "I can't respond."
    In January 2015, Clinton again declined to give a position. "We have differences and you won't get me to talk about Keystone because I have steadily made clear that I'm not going to express an opinion," she told an audience in Winnipeg. "It is in our process and that's where it belongs."
    In July, 2015: "I am not going to second guess (Obama) because I was in a position to set this in motion," Clinton told a voter at a town hall event in New Hampshire. "I want to wait and see what he and Secretary (John) Kerry decide." She added, "If it is undecided when I become President, I will answer your question."
    In these instances, Clinton clearly avoided definitive support of the pipeline. Clinton carefully phrased her answers as "inclined to" move ahead with the project. And as Clinton phrased it during CNN's Democratic presidential debate in October 2015: "I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone."
    Indeed. While her answer's may exemplify "politispeak" at its best, Clinton never stated definitively that the administration would support the pipeline.
    Our verdict on McConnell's charge that Clinton changed positions on Keystone XL: false.