Day 3 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 Wednesday for the third 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.

GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence

Reality Check: Pence on Obama’s ‘relentless mandates’

By Chip Grabow, CNN

Pence criticized the Obama administration’s use of executive orders. “We’ve seen relentless mandates from the executive branch. It seems no aspect of our lives is too small for the present administration to supervise, no provision of the Constitution too large for them to ignore,” Pence said.

While Pence’s meaning of the word “relentless” is open to interpretation, the implication was clear: President Barack Obama has issued an excessive number of executive orders.

So what is Obama’s record of executive orders issued, and how does it compare with his modern-day predecessors?

According to the National Archives Federal Register, as of July 7, during his two terms, Obama has issued 244 executive orders.

President George W. Bush: 291 executive orders.

President Bill Clinton: 364 executive orders.

President George H.W. Bush: 166 executive orders.

President Ronald Reagan: 381 executive orders.

President Jimmy Carter: 320 executive orders.

And President Gerald Ford: 169 executive orders.

Taking the average of all those orders, the number is 276. At 244 orders, Obama could be said to have issued fewer orders than average among his cohorts of the past 40 years.

Pence’s characterization of that number as “relentless” is in the eye of the beholder, but his implication is that Obama has issued an excessive number of orders.

Because the actual count of executive orders issued by Obama is not out of line with those issued by modern day presidents, we rate Pence’s claim to be false.

It’s also worth noting Newt Gingrich on Tuesday evening told an audience at The Union Club in Cleveland that he would urge Trump, on his first day in office, to issue as many as 300 executive orders.

By the way, during his 12 years in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued 3,728 executive orders.

Reality Check: Pence says Clinton ‘all but invented’ Obamacare

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

“Hillary Clinton essentially offers a third Obama term,” Pence said. “And the role is perfect for her. She championed Obamacare because, years earlier, she had all but invented it.”

It’s a line that Clinton has promoted herself in recent months – that “it was called Hillarycare before it was called Obamacare,” referring to the 1993 health care reform effort that she led.

But how closely tied are the two programs? While Clinton’s plan laid the groundwork for 2010’s Affordable Care Act, many experts say the real precursor to Obamacare is “Romneycare,” the 2006 health insurance reform laws implemented in Massachusetts by the former Republican presidential candidate.

Clinton’s plan was “more ambitious in its scope” than the Affordable Care Act, according to Bloomberg, “more comprehensive” because it included more parts of the industry, according to Forbes, and it sought to achieve universal health coverage.

Republicans proposed an alternative for Clinton’s plan in 1993. Their bill was called Health Equity and Access Reform Today (HEART) and included, among other things, an individual mandate to buy insurance – which would later become the centerpiece of Obama’s 2010 plan. (To add further irony, Obama would argue against an individual mandate in the 2008 Democratic primary, against Clinton).

While Hillarycare may have served as the ultimate inspiration for Obamacare, it’s inaccurate to say that she “all but invented” it when the Affordable Care Act more closely resembles Romneycare’s scope and structure. The claims of Pence (and Clinton) are false.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Reality Check: Gingrich on administration lying about Iran nuclear deals

By Ryan Browne, CNN National Security Producer

Gingrich lambasted the Obama administration’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations, accusing the administration of lying about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement, the accord’s official name.

“We know this administration and its allies lied to us about the Iran nuclear deal. We know it because they openly bragged about it to The New York Times,” Gingrich said Wednesday night.

Gingrich is likely referring to the idea that the White House misled the American people over the timing of the Iran nuclear deal.

According to a lengthy interview and profile in The New York Times Magazine, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that the administration had misrepresented when the deal had begun to be negotiated as part of an effort to create a narrative that tied the start of negotiations to the 2013 election of Iranian moderate Hassan Rouhani to the presidency.

Rhodes provides the story’s author with a detailed walk-through of the efforts to sell the deal to the American public.

The article described the narrative as “actively misleading, because the most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012, many months before Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an election.”

When then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked if such negotiations were taking place in 2012, she denied the secret nuclear talks between the United States and Iran.

After it was revealed in December 2013 that secret talks between the United States and Iran actually had taken place, then-spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted the administration lied in order to protect the secret negotiations.

Rhodes took issue with the characterization in the Times article, saying in a post on Medium that “We never made any secret of our interest in pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran.” While he acknowledged that negotiations had indeed begun in 2012, he added that “we did not have any serious prospect of reaching a nuclear deal until after the election of Hasan Rouhani in 2013.”

The New York Times did not issue a retraction.

Because the administration did not initially acknowledge that negotiations had begun prior to 2013, even going as far as to deny their existence in 2012, and because Rhodes detailed the selling strategy to The New York Times, Gingrich’s claim that the administration lied about the negotiations is accurate.

Therefore, we rate this claim to be true.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

Reality Check: Cruz on the Republican Party passing the Civil Rights Act

By Sonam Vashi, CNN

Cruz extolled the values and history of the Republican Party, saying, “Together, we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together, we fought to eliminate Jim Crow laws.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred segregation and racial discrimination in public places. The act passed the House by a vote of 289 to 126, with 153 Democrats (or 60%) voting yea, compared with 136 (or 76%) of Republicans. In the Senate, 69% of Democrats voted yea, versus 82% of Republicans. Part of the reason for these percentages was that socially conservative Southern Democrats formed the bulk of opposition to the bill.

00:48 - Source: CNN
Ted Cruz to Republicans: Vote your conscience

The Party of Lincoln had higher percentages of its members voting for the Civil Rights Act in both houses of Congress, and the same is true for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the “crown jewel” of the Civil Rights movement that prohibited racial discrimination in voting, ending Jim Crow laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes. Cruz’s claim here is true.

Reality Check: Cruz on Iranian holidays

By Lisa Rose, CNN

Cruz also railed against the nuclear deal with Iran, claiming that the country expresses its hostility toward the West with two “holidays”: “Death to America Day” and “Death to Israel Day.”

Cruz’s claims are rooted in annual protests where participants have historically engaged in inflammatory rhetoric and flag burning.

The day of protest against America is on November 4, the anniversary of the siege on the American embassy in Tehran, when 52 hostages were taken by student revolutionaries in 1979.

In Iran, the last Friday of Ramadan doubles as al-Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, a day of demonstrations for Palestinian independence.

Iran continues to refuse to recognize Israel as a legitimate country and President Hassan Rouhani has stirred up controversy by defending the “Death to America” mantra as a criticism of policy rather than a violent call to action.

Cruz goes too far by suggesting the country has two state-sanctioned days of hatred and intolerance. Neither is an official holiday, according to the Iranian consulate.

Verdict: False.

Eric Trump

Reality Check: Eric Trump on his father’s refurbishing of Wollman Park skating rink

By Julie Block, CNN

Donald Trump’s son, Eric, said in his speech that his father invested $2 million of his own money into the refurbishing of an ice skating rink in Central Park because he was “disgusted by government incompetence” when the project “dragged on for over six years and ballooned to over $13 million – $5 million over an already inflated budget.” The younger Trump went on to say that, with his father’s investment, the project was completed less than six months later – two months ahead of schedule and more than $1 million under budget.

The New York Times reported in June 1986 that the 1980 Wollman Memorial Rink project was originally supposed to span two years and cost $9.1 million – a budget that included the landscaping and building a restaurant – but planning and design errors caused repeated delays. The city instead spent six years and $12 million – not “over $13 million,” as Eric Trump claimed – trying to rehabilitate the Central Park skating rink. The $12 million spent on the project was more than $3 million over budget, certainly a substantial sum, though not the “$5 million” Trump spoke of.

The city ran into problems with new technology it had bought for making ice. After spending $200,000 figuring out what went wrong, city officials said the problems were irreparable and they would have to start the project over.

Then Trump stepped in. He originally offered to rebuild the rink on his own dime on the condition that he could operate it and the adjacent restaurant and use the profits to replenish the money he was to spend on the project. In negotiations with the then-New York City Mayor Ed Koch, the city agreed to foot the bill in exchange for Trump dropping his demand to operate the rink and restaurant. So, while Trump took over the project, Eric’s claim that his father “invested $2 million of his own money” is false.

Another New York Times piece, published in November 1986, shortly after the rink’s grand opening, reported that Trump refurbished the rink 2½ months ahead of his original six-month schedule and $750,000 below his projected $3 million budget – not quite “over $1 million under budget,” as Eric Trump said. The Times reported that Trump was able to complete the project so quickly because he did not have to follow the “many rules and competitive bidding provisions that govern city construction.”

Although some of Eric’s numbers on the city’s spending and his father’s budget savings are a bit inflated, Trump did take over the project and complete it under budget and in a timely manner. Because of this, CNN found these claims to be mostly true.

Reality Check: Eric Trump on national debt

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

Trump will implement a common sense business approach to solve the nation’s woes, his son Eric said.

“Who better to apply practical solutions to the impractical decision-making of an administration that has bred a $19 trillion debt? – one which goes up by $32,000 a second and over $2 billion a day,” Eric Trump said.

It’s true that the national debt is $19 trillion – $19.4 trillion to be exact – as of June. But the Obama administration didn’t breed all that. The national debt was $10.6 trillion in January 2009, when former President George W. Bush left office.

As for how quickly it’s growing, that fluctuates from year to year. In June 2015, the national debt was $18.1 trillion. So it grew $1.3 trillion over the past year.

Because of that fluctuation, it’s hard to say exactly how much it grows per day or per second.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the budget deficit for 2016 will be $544 billion. Add to that a few hundred billion in intragovernmental borrowing. That’s close enough to rate Eric Trump’s estimate of $32,000 a second, or $2 billion a day, as true.

Reality Check: Eric Trump on $150 billion to Iran

By Eve Bower, CNN

Trump’s middle son rehashed one of his father’s favorite lines throughout his campaign: that the Obama administration agreed to give $150 billion to Iran as part of the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The line remains false.

In 2011 and 2012, the United States and Europe imposed sanctions on Iran that included freezing some Iranian assets overseas. With the announcement of a nuclear deal in 2015, those same assets stood to be released – if the terms of the deal were upheld – creating a pool of money that would become available to the Iranian government for the first time in years. The total amount of those assets is not known, but as a deal with Iran seemed imminent, some estimated the number was as high as $150 billion.

In July 2015, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deal, then-House Speaker John Boehner and others claimed that “more than $100 billion” in unfrozen assets would be available to Iran.

02:12 - Source: CNN
Eric Trump: It's time for a president with common sense

But two entities with direct knowledge of the assets involved, the Treasury Department and the White House, have disputed these estimates.

In Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s July 2015 testimony to the Senate, he estimated that, after sanctions relief, Iran will only be able to access “about $50 billion” in unfrozen assets. He said that “tens of billions” of these assets comprise nonperforming loans to Iranian energy and banking interests.

In a detailed statement on the deal, the White House later called the $150 billion estimate “entirely off base.”

So just over one year into the agreement, how much of these assets has Iran received? It depends whom you ask.

In February, less than one month after the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations up to that point and sanctions could be lifted, Iran’s government spokesman, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said that Iran had gained access to more than $100 billion in previously frozen assets.

But Iran’s own Central Bank says the amount will be less than one-third that.

Economists say the true figure is difficult to estimate because there are different types of assets, and some will not be recovered immediately.

Because no party with direct access to the assets has given a public estimate anywhere close to the figure Trump suggests, this assertion is deemed false.

Astronaut Eileen Collins

Reality Check: Eileen Collins on space shuttle retirement

By Lisa Rose, CNN

Retired astronaut Eileen Collins noted that Wednesday was the anniversary of the moon landing in 1969 and lamented the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

“In 2011, the space shuttle program ended,” Collins said. “The last time the United States launched our own astronauts from our own soil was over five years ago. We must do better than that.”

Collins suggested that Obama lacks the lofty vision and initiative of his predecessors. Collins failed to note, however, that the sunset of the space shuttle program was set in motion by former President George W. Bush. During a 2004 speech on the future of NASA, Bush announced the shuttles would be retired after they flew several final trips to complete work on the International Space Station. At the time, Bush reassured Americans NASA would continue to pursue manned space travel, saying the agency was developing a new orbiter to replace the shuttle, with a moon trip planned for 2020.

Fact-checking Day 2 of GOP convention speeches

In 2006, the government slashed $3 billion from NASA’s budget, the first in a series of cuts that have indefinitely delayed the moon voyage. During Obama’s first campaign for president, he expressed confidence that despite NASA’s money woes, a moon landing was still on the horizon. He canceled the moon mission, however, in 2010, explaining that it would be more cost effective to concentrate on robotic exploration and support private companies like SpaceX by hiring them as contractors.

Collins neglected to mention the successes of commercial aerospace companies; SpaceX has launched and landed two reusable rockets in the past year. It’s ironic for her to bemoan NASA’s downsizing given the Republican Party’s preference for private sector innovation over taxpayer-funded endeavors. She also failed to acknowledge recent milestones like fellow astronaut Scott Kelly’s record-setting year in orbit aboard the ISS.

While Obama was in office when the space shuttle program ended, George W. Bush chose to retire the orbiters. For this reason, we r