LAS VEGAS — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off one final time, each looking to land a knockout punch.
As the presidential nominees met Wednesday for their final debate, and CNN’s Reality Check Team spent the night analyzing their claims.
The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN is listening throughout the debate and selecting key statements from both candidates, rating them true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it’s complicated.
Reality Check: Trump on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s remarks
By Kate Grise, CNN
Trump called out the Supreme Court justice for her criticism of his candidacy.
“Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people, many, many millions of people that I represent and she was forced to apologize,” he said. “And apologize she did. But these were statements that should never, ever have been made.”
Ginsburg called Trump a “faker” in a July 11 interview with CNN.
“He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment,” Ginsburg said. “He really has an ego … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
“At first I thought it was funny,” she said. “To think that there’s a possibility that he could be president.”
Early that same week, Ginsburg also told The Associated Press that if Trump won the presidency, “I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”
She also told The New York Times, “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
Ginsburg later said she regretted the remarks.
“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them,” Ginsburg said in a statement. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future, I will be more circumspect.”
We rate Trump’s claim true.
Reality Check: Trump justices would overrule Roe v. Wade ‘automatically’
By Steve Vladeck, CNN
Trump’s claim that the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade would be overruled by justices he would appoint to the Supreme Court “automatically” is belied by history.
Although Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointed justices who they believed would overrule the 1973 decision recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion, three of those appointees — Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter — famously voted to preserve the Roe decision in 1992.
Even if a President Trump were only to appoint “pro-life” justices, there is simply no way to ensure that any particular decision, including Roe, would be “automatically” overruled.
Reality Check: Clinton ‘fought for the wall,’ Trump claims
By Theodore Schleifer, CNN
Trump thundered that Clinton “fought for the wall in 2006.”
Clinton did indeed support a border barrier in 2006 — she voted for George W. Bush’s Secure Fence Act, which paved the way for 700 miles of security along the southern border. But as the name implies, it was a “fence,” not a wall.
It’s unclear if that is still an official campaign position. Her position on immigration reform, as listed on her website, says close to little about how she would secure the border.
Confronted by Latino anchor Jorge Ramos about the difference about her position and Trump’s, Clinton said in January.
“We do need to have secure borders, and what that will take is a combination of technology and physical barriers,” she told him.
“But you want a wall, then,” Ramos replied.
“I voted for border security — and some of it was a fence, I don’t think we ever called it a wall,” she replied, before conceding: “Maybe in some cases it was a wall.”
The difference is largely semantic — both are physical barriers that prevent people from crossing. But Trump isn’t entirely accurate.
Verdict: True, but misleading.
Reality Check: Trump says Obama admitted thousands of Syrians
By Laura Koran, CNN
Trump claimed that President Barack Obama has admitted “thousands and thousands” of Syrians, adding, “they have no idea where they come from.”
Let’s break this claim down.
The Obama administration amended its refugee quotas for the 2016 fiscal year in response to the growing migrant crisis, paving the way for at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US. They ended the fiscal year at the end of September having admitted more than 12,500 Syrians as part of this increase.
The administration called for a further increase in the overall refugee admissions quota for the 2017 fiscal year, from 85,000 to 110,000. Officials have not offered a specific goal for Syrians, but plan to admit 40,000 refugees from the geographic region that includes Syria.
There is also an “unallocated reserve” of 14,000 the administration can use to adjust admissions for populations facing the greatest need, which this administration (or more likely the next one) could use to increase the number of Syrians.
The second part of Trump’s claim suggests the US does not know the identities of the refugees who are entering the country.
Administration officials have called the vetting process for refugees “the most stringent” applied to any group of people entering the country.
The process includes biometric and biographical checks involving officials from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the FBI.
The process is made more complicated by the fact that the administration doesn’t have a diplomatic relationship with the Syrian government and therefore isn’t able to verify some details about applicants on the ground.
Obama’s own FBI director, James Comey, acknowledged the issue, saying last year, “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”
But officials involved in the process insist the vetting process is a holistic one, and the interagency team takes advantage of a host of tools to verify applicants’ identities and their suitability to be relocated to the US.
Verdict: The first part of Trump’s claim is true. The Obama administration has already admitted well over 10,000 Syrian refugees and has put forward a plan that would allow for the admission of thousands more. The second part of his claim is false. Refugees undergo a vetting process that can take over 12 months to verify their identities.
Reality Check: Clinton on 33,000 gun deaths annually
By Ali Foreman, CNN
“We have 33,000 people a year who die from guns,” Clinton claimed.
Her claim is in line with not only statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which reported 33,599 people killed by firearms in 2014) but also the rhetoric of her primary campaigning. In a February debate against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton said, “On average, 90 people a day are killed by gun violence in our country.”
While Clinton’s figures are correct — the CDC’s reported number rounds to about 92 firearm-related deaths a day — the context provided in Wednesday night’s debate misses the mark.
She expanded upon the statistic, saying, “I think we need comprehensive background checks, need to close the online loophole, close the gun show loophole … I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.”
Clinton’s use of this figure in support of gun control gives the impression that 33,000 Americans are violently killed by firearms each year. As we pointed out in February, the CDC’s statistic encompasses many types of gun-related deaths — not only violent, intentional encounters.
In addition to the 11,409 individuals killed as a result of gun violence (homicide and legal intervention), that 33,599 also includes suicides, unintentional deaths, and incidents with undetermined intent.
For this reason, we will rate Clinton’s claim for a second time true, but misleading.
Reality Check: Trump claims he doesn’t support nuclear proliferation
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
Clinton and Trump sparred over the Republican candidate’s statements about nuclear weapons.
Clinton claimed Trump had been “very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons,” an assertion Trump interjected to claim was “wrong.” The Democratic candidate continued: “He’s advocated more countries getting them. Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia.”
Trump disputed the characterization of his stance: “There’s no quote. You’ll not find a quote from me,” he said, saying he advocated countries taking steps to defend themselves, but “didn’t say nuclear.”
Over the course of his campaign, Trump has taken different and convoluted stances on nuclear proliferation. He suggested to The New York Times on March 27 that because North Korea has nuclear capabilities, Japan should develop a comparable defense.
“If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us,” he said then.
Pressed in various CNN interviews since then, Trump expressed a similar stance. He told Anderson Cooper on March 29: “Wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”
And when Wolf Blitzer asked in May whether Trump was “ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers,” Trump answered affirmatively.
“I am prepared to, if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and police for the world,” he said.
But he’s also expressed a general opposition to the spread of nuclear weapons, telling CNN in March, “I hate nuclear more than any” and “I don’t want more nuclear weapons.”
Ultimately, Trump is on the record expressing support, at least in the hypothetical, for countries that currently don’t have nuclear weapons eventually obtaining them.
Reality Check: Trump on Clinton allowing abortions ‘two or three or four days prior to birth’
By Ben Tinker, CNN
When asked by moderator Chris Wallace about late-term abortion, Trump responded, “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take a baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK, but it’s not OK with me. Because based on what she is saying, and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take a baby and rip the baby out of the womb. In the ninth month, on the final day and that’s not acceptable.”
While Clinton has said she believes a fetus lacks constitutional rights, she did vote against a ban on late-term abortions in 2003 while serving as a senator from New York.
“The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make,” Clinton said in the debate Wednesday night.
“I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one can get — that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term, or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”
Roe v. Wade, decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, made abortions legal during the entire term of a pregnancy, but put restrictions on the procedure during the second and third trimesters.
Clinton does believe mothers should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy at any point — up until birth — if her life is in danger, but abortions as late in a pregnancy as Trump suggests are almost unheard of.
We therefore rate Trump’s claim as true, but misleading.