Fact-checking Night 2 of the Republican National Convention


On the second night of the Republican National Convention, several members of the Trump family made the case for President Donald Trump’s re-election in a program devoted to cultural flashpoints and dire predictions for the country under a Joe Biden administration.

The president’s son Eric Trump offered a number of false or misleading claims about Biden’s views and policy prescriptions, while top Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow got the facts wrong about the trajectory of the economy when the president took office. First lady Melania Trump, meanwhile, delivered a keynote address from the Rose Garden at the White House, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a norm-defying speech recorded in Jerusalem.

NBC News fact-checked the speeches throughout the night.

Eric Trump falsely says Biden wants to defund police

“Biden has pledged to defund the police,” the president’s son said in a recorded speech.

The assertion, made or insinuated in multiple speeches at the RNC, is inaccurate. Biden rejected those calls from the hard left in June, telling CBS News: “No, I don’t support defunding the police.”

He has instead proposed to increase police funding by seeking to “reinvigorate the COPS program with a $300 million investment,” according to his official justice platform. COPS refers to Community Oriented Policing Services, a program that seeks to bolster community-based policing.

Eric Trump falsely claims Biden wants to ‘take away’ the Second Amendment

Eric Trump also claimed that Biden has pledged to “take away our cherished Second Amendment.”

Biden has pledged no such thing.

Biden’s gun control plan includes a push for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, incentives for states to pass and enforce “red flag” laws (measures that would allow law enforcement to temporarily seize guns from people found to be a danger to themselves or to others) and an effort to ensure that all guns sold are “smart guns” (personalized guns that use various technologies to prevent anyone other than an authorized user from firing the weapon).

The plan calls for many other measures, too, including the regulation of the possession of existing assault weapons and the closing of the “hate crime” loophole and the “Charleston” loophole, which allows the sale of a firearm if a background check isn’t completed within three days.

Those measures, which would be extremely unlikely to pass a divided Congress even if Biden were elected, wouldn’t “take away” the Second Amendment, because none of Biden’s measures would confiscate all guns.

“I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment,” Biden has said on numerous occasions. “The Second Amendment isn’t absolute, though. Like any other amendment, it’s not absolute.”

Eric Trump may have been repeating a claim hurled at Biden in March when the former vice president was touring a car factory. During his visit, Biden told a factory worker he was “full of s—” after the man said Biden was going to take away his guns. A clip of their interaction went viral.

Eric Trump says Biden wants ‘amnesty and health care’ for undocumented immigrants. That’s misleading.

“Biden has pledged to stop border wall construction and give amnesty and health care to all illegal immigrants,” Eric Trump said Tuesday night.

While it’s true that Biden has pledged to stop construction of the border wall that Trump made a key 2016 campaign promise, he has hardly proposed amnesty and free health care for all undocumented immigrants.

Biden supports allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase health care with their own money; he doesn’t support using taxpayer-funded subsidies for undocumented immigrants’ insurance. And he supports legislative immigration reform that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have passed background checks and are up to date on their taxes.

Eric Trump says administration’s tax law repatriated ‘trillions of dollars.’ That’s an overstatement.

Eric Trump said “trillions of dollars were repatriated back into the United States — which had been sitting in foreign lands for far too long.”

“Trillions” is an overstatement, although Trump is in the ballpark. Still, the number is far less than the amount the president had expected his tax bill to repatriate to the U.S.

The tax bill that Trump signed in December 2017 cut corporate tax rates — a move the administration said would make it favorable for companies to bring back into the U.S. cash that was stashed in foreign operations. Trump had predicted that the new tax structure would provide incentives for companies to bring $4 trillion back into U.S. accounts.

As of the end of 2019, U.S. corporations had brought back more than $1 trillion of overseas profits, according to analyses of Commerce Department data. Eric Trump’s figure falls short of his father’s promises.

Furthermore, the tax bill ended up having other unintended consequences. In the year after it was signed into law, the tax package funded a record stock buyback and dividend spree, benefiting investors and company executives over workers.

Pompeo claims Trump ‘ended ridiculously unfair trade deals with China.’ Did he?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Trump “ended ridiculously unfair trade deals with China that punched a hole in our economy.”

This claim is exaggerated.

Trump and China signed phase one of a hard-fought trade deal only months ago in January, and questions have remained among U.S. officials and policy watchers ever since over whether China has held up its end of the deal.

The deal reached in January capped a bitter 18-month battle between the world’s two largest economies, which had roiled markets and slowed economic growth worldwide.

The $200 billion trade deal includes “an average” of $40 billion a year for the next two years in agricultural purchase targets from the Chinese; a pledge to purchase $77.8 billion more in U.S. manufactured goods, such as cars, aircraft and farm machinery; $52.4 billion in U.S. oil and gas purchases; $37.9 billion in financial and other services; and increased protections for U.S. intellectual property.

The deal, however, didn’t include arrangements about other substantial disputes between the countries, including enforcement of forced technology transfer and China’s subsidies for competitive industries. Those thornier issues were relegated to the second phase of the trade deal, which isn’t likely to be resolved until after the election.

Bondi repeats baseless claim about Biden’s role in ouster of Ukrainian prosecutor

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi repeated the president’s evidence-free allegation that Biden wielded his influence as vice president to benefit his son Hunter’s private-sector work in Ukraine.

Bondi, who was part of Trump’s defense team during his impeachment trial in the Senate, said Biden used U.S. foreign aid to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor, suggesting that Biden pushed for the prosecutor’s removal because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, an energy company whose board Hunter Biden served on.

“Joe Biden — the vice president of the United States — threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless that same prosecutor was fired … and then he was fired,” Bondi said.

There’s still no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either Biden.

The prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was widely believed to be soft on corruption; the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. Ukraine’s Parliament ultimately voted to remove him.

And while Biden has taken credit for getting Shokin fired by leveraging U.S. foreign aid, there’s little evidence that he acted to help his son. In 2019, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported that the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. The Ukrainian prosecutor general at the time told Bloomberg News that he had found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. And PolitiFact reported that it had found no evidence to “support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son’s interests in mind.”

Asked whether Biden’s work to get Shokin fired raised a conflict of interest, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said it didn’t.

“I don’t think that — the view that Mr. Shokin was not a good prosecutor general fighting corruption, I don’t think that had anything to do with the Burisma case,” she said.

The House alleged abuse of power involving Ukraine when it impeached Trump. Democrats said there was ample evidence that Trump had abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into Biden and his son while withholding almost $400 million in aid and that he had obstructed Congress by refusing to release any documents related to his actions. Trump was acquitted after a Senate trial.

Kudlow claims Trump inherited a ‘stagnant’ economy. That’s false.

Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, claimed that Trump, when elected, was “inheriting a stagnant economy on the front end of recession.”

That is false.

Looking at the broadest measure of economic health, gross domestic product, the numbers show that average quarterly economic growth under Trump, 2.5 percent, was almost exactly what it was during President Barack Obama’s second term, 2.4 percent.

In 2016, Trump said he was unhappy that the country’s economic growth rate was under 3 percent a year. Trump said he thought the economy could grow at an annual rate of better than 4 percent.

Kudlow also claimed Tuesday night that the economy “was rebuilt in three years,” saying, “Unemployment fell to the lowest rate of 3.5 percent.”

The Trump administration rightly takes credit for having low unemployment during his presidency, but the idea that Trump “rebuilt” the economy is misleading. Unemployment under Obama had already been trending downward.

In December — before the pandemic hit the U.S. — the unemployment rate was a scant 3.5 percent, the lowest it had been in 50 years.

However, as good as that number was, the rate was already at 4.7 percent when Trump took office. That figure is quite low by historical standards (lower than it was during all of the 1980s, as well as most of the 1990s and the 2000s). In fact, Obama presided over a much steeper drop in unemployment in his second term, a 3.3-point drop in the rate, than Trump did in his first three years, a decline of 1.2 points.

The numbers under Trump appear to be the continuation of a trend, not something new.

Job creation numbers offer more evidence for this.

On average, more jobs were added monthly in Obama’s second term than in Trump’s first three years.

On average, the country created 215,000 new jobs a month in Obama’s second term. In Trump’s first three years, the figure was 182,000. They are both good numbers, and if you look at the jobs data plotted on a graph, the rise since 2011 actually looks pretty consistent.

There is one indicator that suggests a change under Trump: the rise in the stock market. On Dec. 31, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 28,538. That was up by 56 percent from 18,332, where it was the day Trump was elected in 2016.

From Obama’s second Election Day until 2016, the Dow climbed by 38 percent.

Sen. Rand Paul on Trump’s Iraq War opposition

“Joe Biden voted for the Iraq War, which President Trump has long called the worst geopolitical mistake of our generation,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

This is true, although the contrast omits some key context. Before the Iraq War began, Trump said he supported the invasion of the country in an interview. He didn’t express a negative opinion about the war until after it had started, according to previous NBC News fact-checks.

Biden, too, has changed his mind. Biden has repeatedly said his vote for the Iraq War was a mistake.

Was Trump the first president to talk religious freedom at the U.N.?

Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of the evangelical preacher Billy Graham, said Trump is the first president “to talk about the importance of religious freedom at the United Nations, giving hope to people of faith around the world.”

This is false. Here’s a clip of Obama talking about religious freedom at the U.N.; here’s a news report of George W. Bush doing the same. At the U.N. last year, Trump said he was the first president to have hosted a meeting on religious freedom, but he’s definitely not the first to have talked up the issue.

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