FactCheck

FBI Didn’t Reach Conclusion on Kavanaugh Accusations

Q: Did the FBI issue a report that “confirms” that “none” of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers’ stories were true?

A: No. Contrary to false social media claims, the bureau did not reach any conclusion in its background investigation.

FULL ANSWER

As accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh amid his contentious Senate confirmation proceedings, the Department of Justice reminded that the FBI’s role in conducting background investigations for such nominees was to provide information to lawmakers — not to reach conclusions about allegations.

“The FBI does not make any judgment about the credibility or significance of any allegation,” the DOJ said in a September statement. “The purpose of a background investigation is to determine whether the nominee could pose a risk to the national security of the United States. The allegation does not involve any potential federal crime. The FBI’s role in such matters is to provide information for the use of the decision makers.”

Despite that, viral posts on social media have alleged that an “FBI report confirms none of the Kavanaugh accusations were true. None of them.”

That’s false.

The FBI conducted a supplemental background investigation to review allegations against Kavanaugh made by two women: Christine Blasey Ford — the California professor who publicly testified that a drunk, teenage Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party in the 1980s — and Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh and claimed that he exposed himself to her.

The supplemental investigation, which lasted several days, included interviewing 10 individuals about those allegations, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bureau provided its report documenting the interviews to the White House, which then provided it to the Senate. The Judiciary Committee said the supplemental investigation showed there was “no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez.”

In other words, the FBI’s interviews did not substantiate the accusations by Ford or Ramirez — but they also did not show the accounts to be false.

The FBI investigation did not probe other allegations, including the accusations put forth by Julie Swetnick and her lawyer, Michael Avenatti.

Weeks after Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, referred Swetnick and Avenatti to the FBI for investigation for allegedly making “materially false statements” to the committee.

Grassley later made a similar referral to the FBI to investigate another woman, Judy Munro-Leighton. Grassley said in his referral letter that Munro-Leighton contacted the committee and claimed to be the “Jane Doe” who had submitted an earlier, anonymous written accusation against Kavanaugh. Munro-Leighton, as we’ve previously reported, admitted she in fact was not the woman who wrote that letter and had not even met Kavanaugh.

Those referrals relate only to Swetnick and Munro-Leighton, not to Ford or Ramirez.

On Nov. 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a lengthy report examining all of the accusations. It said that committee investigators “found no witness who could provide any verifiable evidence to support any of the allegations brought against Justice Kavanaugh.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Keith, Tamara. “Democrats Want FBI To Investigate Kavanaugh Allegations. It Likely Won’t.” NPR. 18 Sep 2018.

Letter from Sen. Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. 2 Nov 2018.

Letter from Sen. Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. 25 Oct 2018.

Supplemental FBI Investigation Executive Summary.” U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. 4 Oct 2018.

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Viral Meme Makes Up Trump Jr. ‘Quote’

Q: Did Donald Trump Jr. say, “Let California burn” for voting blue?

A: No. That’s a made-up quote from a self-described “parody” site. 

FULL ANSWER

A viral meme falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr. blamed Californians for the ongoing deadly fires across their state and took satisfaction in the natural disaster.

The bogus quotation attributed to the president’s son reads, “Let California burn. It’s what they voted for. Notice no fires in red states.” The meme originated on a Facebook page called “Stop the World, the Deplorables Want Off,” and was shared by users in email chains and across the social media platform. Along with the meme, the Facebook page posted: “Just when I thought his dad was the most heartless person in the Trump family… How can someone blame victims for their houses getting burned down?”

Some comments on the Facebook meme were critical of Trump Jr., suggesting that some believed the quote to be true. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” one person wrote. Other users flagged the meme as false, which it is.

The first clue indicating the quote was fabricated is the text superimposed on Trump Jr.’s tie that identified the source of the meme: “Facebook/StopTheWorldTheDeplorablesWantOff.” That Facebook page describes itself as a “mixture of political memes & messages” that creates “a lot of parody posts & those are NOT meant to be taken seriously. Check for ‘quotation marks.’”

Also, the meme cites Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Nov. 12 as the source of the invented quote. But Trump Jr. did not appear that night on the show, which covered topics such as the Florida recount and whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will run again for president in 2020.

Contrary to the meme, Trump Jr. on Nov. 9 tweeted his support for setting aside “even deep political differences” to help all Californians suffering from the devastating effects of the wildfires. 

Satirical stories and memes have deceived readers in the past. We’ve debunked multiple stories that originated on satirical websites but then were republished on other websites and platforms without being labeled as satire.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

About: ‘Stop the World, the Deplorables Want Off.’” Facebook. Accessed 13 Nov 2018.

Tucker Carlson Tonight – Monday, November 12.” Fox News. 13 Nov 2018.

Farley, Robert and Lori Robertson. “Bogus Voter Fraud Claims.” FactCheck.org. 13 Nov 2018.

Trump Jr., Donald (@DonaldJTrumpJr). “Well said and well done @RealJamesWoods! We need to be able to set aside even deep political differences more often to do the right thing and be human. Great example for others to hopefully follow.” Twitter. 9 Nov 2018.

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Partisan Site Spins Falsehoods in Georgia Election

Q: Have provisional ballots been rejected as “duplicates” in Fulton County, Georgia?

A: No. A provisional ballot labeled “duplicate” means it has been counted, not rejected.

FULL ANSWER

More than a week after the midterm elections at least a dozen races remain undetermined, and partisan websites are adding to the confusion by posting misinformation about vote counts.

One story that has been shared on social media accounts with a combined following of almost 4 million claims: “Bombshell numbers out of Fulton County, Georgia show that a vast amount of the provisional ballots submitted in the Democrat stronghold were rejected for being duplicate ballots.”

But that’s not true.

Here’s what has actually happened with the provisional vote count in Fulton County, Georgia — the county that includes most of the city of Atlanta:

First of all, those who show up to the polls and find that they aren’t able to vote can cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted only if it could be confirmed later that the person is, in fact, an eligible voter. In Georgia, provisional ballots are often cast if someone doesn’t have the proper ID or because the person’s name doesn’t show up on the list of registered voters.

Provisional voting was mandated nationally by the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, but is applied in accordance with state laws. For example, in Georgia, a state that has a voter ID law, if the reason a voter has cast a provisional ballot is because he or she didn’t have identification on Election Day, that person has three days to produce an ID, according to state law.

After the Nov. 6 election, 1,994 provisional ballots in Fulton County were counted as votes, according to the numbers certified by the county’s Board of Registration and Elections on Nov. 13. Of those, 356 were cast by voters who were in the right precinct, but had an issue with their voting status or ID and were able to resolve it before the three-day deadline, Richard Barron, director of registration and elections for Fulton County, told the board at a Nov. 13 meeting. The other 1,638 were duplicate ballots, which are ballots that were cast by eligible Fulton County voters who had gone to the wrong precinct, Barron said.

Because the precinct where the ballot was cast must duplicate the ballot and send it to the precinct where the voter is registered, such ballots are called duplicate ballots, explained April Majors, spokeswoman for Fulton County, in an interview with FactCheck.org. Those ballots aren’t rejected; they are re-routed, so the claim that “a vast amount of the provisional ballots submitted in the Democrat stronghold were rejected for being duplicate ballots” is wrong.

The actual number of ballots that were rejected in Fulton County was 1,555, Barron told the board. Of those, 581 voters were not registered; 972 voters had been in the wrong county (ballots don’t get re-routed if the voter is registered in a different county, Majors said), and two voters had failed to provide proof of citizenship.

That means that 44 percent of the provisional ballots cast in Fulton County were rejected, which is comparable to statewide averages in recent election years. In 2016, which was a presidential election year, the state of Georgia rejected 55 percent of the provisional ballots that were cast. In 2014, which, like this year, was a midterm election, Georgia rejected 43 percent of the provisional ballots cast.

So, the claim that “bombshell” numbers show “a vast amount” of provisional ballots were “rejected” for being “duplicate[s]” is false.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Stewart, Emily. “The 2018 midterm races that still aren’t over.” Vox.com. 14 Nov 2018.

Howley, Patrick. “BOMBSHELL: Fulton County Numbers Show Massive Duplicate Ballots, Rejected Ballots, Non-Citizens Trying To Vote.” BigLeaguePolitics.com. 11 Nov 2018.

U.S. House. “H.R. 3295, Help America Vote Act of 2002.” U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Accessed 14 Nov 2018.

Georgia Code. Section 21-2-419. Validation of provisional ballots; reporting to Secretary of State. Accessed 14 Nov 2018.

Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections. Meeting to certify election results. 13 Nov 2018.

Office of the Secretary of State, Georgia. “Georgia Voter Information Guide.” Accessed 14 Nov 2018.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The Election Administration and Voting Survey — 2016 Comprehensive Report. Jun 2017.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The 2014 EAC Election Administration and Voting Survey Comprehensive Report. Jun 2015.

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Deutch Misses Mark in Attack on Scott

Rep. Ted Deutch accused Florida Gov. Rick Scott of “trying to manipulate the outcome of elections,” providing examples that went beyond the facts:

  • Deutch claimed Scott took “the unheard of approach of trying to use his own state police to impound voting machines.” Scott’s campaign filed a lawsuit to impound voting machines — which is not an “unheard of approach” for campaigns to take after a close election.
  • Deutch also criticized Scott for “reducing the number of early voting locations.” Scott did sign legislation in 2011 reducing the days and hours of early voting, but the governor reversed himself two years later. As for early voting locations, those increased in every statewide general election during Scott’s eight years as governor.

Deutch, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, made his remarks during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.” The congressman talked about counting the ballots in two of Florida’s extremely close statewide races — the governor’s race between Tallahassee Democrat Andrew Gillum and former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, and the Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

As both parties haggle over how to carry out yet another Florida recount, Deutch said — correctly — that there is no evidence of fraud in Broward County. He then went on to attack Scott.

“There is evidence of eight years of Rick Scott as the governor of Florida trying to manipulate the outcome of elections,” Deutch said, before launching into some examples.

Impounding Voting Machines

In one example, Deutch took issue with the legal wrangling over voting machines in Broward County, the state’s second most populous county.

Deutch, Nov. 12: The governor has now actually taken the unheard of approach of trying to use his own state police to impound voting machines before this election is even over.

It is not unheard of for campaigns to seek a post-election court order to impound the ballots — which is what Scott’s campaign, not the governor or the governor’s office, did in this case.

On Nov. 11, the Scott campaign filed a lawsuit against Brenda Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections, in state circuit court. “These filings request that FDLE [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] and the Sheriff’s Office be required to impound and secure all voting machines, tallying devices and ballots when they are not in use until the conclusion of the recount,” the campaign said.

Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Peñalosa issued a statement comparing the governor to a dictator for filing the lawsuit.

“In suing to seize ballots and impound voting machines, Rick Scott is doing his best to impersonate Latin American dictators who have overthrown democracies in Venezuela and Cuba,” Peñalosa said. “The governor is using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of Democracy.”

But, contrary to Deutch’s claim, it is not “unheard of” for campaigns in Florida to file suit seeking a court order to impound voting machines or paper ballots.

In 2006, the campaign for a Democratic congressional candidate, Christine Jennings, filed a lawsuit asking a circuit court judge to impound electronic voting machines used in Sarasota County. And, in 2012, Rep. Allen West’s campaign sought a court order to require elections officials to impound ballots and voting machines. Both candidates lost, despite their legal actions.

In Scott’s case, the state’s judicial system — acting not at all like a dictatorship — ruled against the governor’s campaign and came up with a practical alternative that was acceptable to both sides.

At the suggestion of Circuit Chief Judge Jack Tuter, lawyers for both campaigns agreed to add three more sheriff’s deputies to secure the location of the county’s voting machines.

Early Voting Locations

In accusing Scott of “trying to manipulate the outcome of elections,” Deutch also said, “He did it by making the number of voting places during early voting — by reducing the number of early voting locations.”

In fact, the number of early voting locations increased under Scott.

Deutch was referring to a bill that Scott signed into law in 2011 that reduced the number of early voting days and hours. The new law was cited as one reason for long lines at the polls in 2012.

“The 2011 changes, as well as the Legislature’s decision to add several lengthy constitutional amendments to the ballot, resulted in long lines at polls in several urban areas of the state, particularly Miami Dade where some voters waited more than eight hours to cast ballots,” the Miami Herald wrote.

But in response to the long lines, and under public pressure to act, the governor reversed course two years later and signed a bill that restored and expanded early voting.

“The law not only restores the early voting to a mandatory 64 hours over eight days and up to 168 hours over 14 days, it also gives the 67 county supervisors of elections the discretion to schedule early voting on the Sunday before the election,” the Herald wrote of the 2013 law.

Specifically, Deutch accused the governor of “reducing the number of early voting locations.” But data we reviewed on the Florida Department of State website show that the number of early voting locations increased in every general election during Scott’s eight years. 

In 2010, before Scott took office, the state had 257 early polling places in 67 counties. After Scott assumed office in January 2011, the number of early polling places increased to 289 in 2012, 333 in 2014, 351 in 2016 and 367 in 2018.

Deutch has a point about the legislation Scott signed in 2011, but he ignores the 2013 bill that the governor also signed. Deutch is also wrong to say that Scott “reduced the number of early voting locations.”

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Fake Kurt Cobain Quote about Trump

Q: Did Kurt Cobain predict a Donald Trump presidency more than 20 years ago?

A: No. There is no evidence he did, and Cobain’s former manager labeled the quote a fake.

FULL ANSWER

There is no evidence the late Kurt Cobain said Donald Trump might become president.

That claim is made in a viral meme that displays a black-and-white photo of the former Nirvana frontman along with this made-up quote: “In the end I believe my generation will surprise everyone. We already know that both political parties are playing both sides from the middle and we’ll elect a true outsider when we fully mature. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not a business tycoon who can’t be bought and who does what’s right for the people. Someone like Donald Trump as crazy as that sounds.”

The meme, a version of which was reportedly first shared on a pro-Trump Facebook page in 2016, claims that Cobain made this prediction in 1993 — a year before the singer’s death.

Danny Goldberg, one of Nirvana’s former managers, emphatically rejected this possibility when the meme went viral again this year. In an opinion piece for The Nation in August, Goldberg wrote, “I know that the quote is not only made up but is also a grotesque perversion of Kurt’s beliefs.”

We can’t say what Cobain would think of the current political landscape, but we know he wasn’t shy about sharing his political beliefs with reporters during his career.

In a 1993 interview with The Advocate, Cobain discussed his decision to vote for Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election (though he preferred one of Clinton’s primary rivals, Jerry Brown). In the article, Cobain said he would perform at the White House, if asked. He also recalled his disappointment with Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory in 1980.

At other times, the late singer similarly expressed his displeasure with the Republican Party.

In a 1992 interview with Argentinian journalist Sergio Marchi, Cobain was very critical of the GOP, saying: “… the Democrats are not close either morally or philosophically to what I think. The Democrats are very conservative, but at least they’re not as conservative as the Republicans. Republicans are the incarnation of Satan. I hate them. For me the word Republican is a bad word; when someone says Republican they are saying ‘cheat.’ It’s the most offensive term you can say to someone.”

In that interview, Cobain did mention his preference to see someone “who is not a professional politician” become president, but when asked for his opinion of business tycoon Ross Perot, then a third-party candidate, Cobain responded, “Nah, the guy sucks. He’s rich; I don’t trust him as president.”

Although, Cobain suggested he would prefer Perot over Clinton and then-President George H. W. Bush, but didn’t “want to waste” his vote.

Sources

Allman, Kevin. “The Dark Side of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.” The Advocate. 9 Feb 1993.

Goldberg, Danny. “The Kurt Cobain Donald Trump Hoax.” The Nation. 7 Aug 2018.

Marchi, Sergio. “I Used To Practice When I First Grabbed The Guitar.” Cobain on Cobain: Interviews and Encounters, edited by Nick Soulsby, Chicago Review Press, 2016.

Strauss, Neil. “Kurt Cobain’s Downward Spiral: The Last Days of Nirvana’s Leader.” Rolling Stone. 2 Jun 1994.

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Job Openings Bunk

The Republican National Committee and others have taken to claiming that the number of job openings exceeds the number of job seekers for the first time “in history,” a sweeping claim that is without factual support, and likely false.

It’s true that the number of unfilled job openings is now greater than the number of unemployed people for the first time on record, but records only go back 18 years. Despite what some GOP spinmeisters would have you believe, “history” didn’t start in December of 2000.

That’s when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. And BLS says, “Prior to JOLTS, there was no economic indicator of the unmet demand for labor with which to assess the presence or extent of labor shortages in the United States. ”

Make no mistake, it’s remarkable when job openings exceed the number of jobless, as happened back in March, and several times since. And we noted that at the top of our July 11 update of “Trump’s Numbers.”

But that fact has evolved into an economic fairy tale as Republicans have made progressively more sweeping boasts about it.

A week after our report, on July 18, President Donald Trump declared at a White House event, “Job openings exceed the number of unemployed people in our country for the first time in recorded history.”

Trump didn’t mention that “recorded” history only goes back 18 years in this case. His use of the word “recorded” is a good example of a “weasel word” — a qualifier that sucks the meaning out of a phrase in the way that weasels supposedly suck the contents out of an egg. 

But one week later, on July 26, Trump stood by at an Iowa event while Republican Rep. Rod Blum dropped that qualifier and said flatly, “So the first time — the first time, my friends, in our country’s history, we have more job openings — more job openings than we have workers to fill them. First time in our country’s history.” 

And more recently, on Oct. 31, Trump stood by again while his daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump also dropped the qualifier once more and said, “And for the first time in history, we have more vacant jobs than we have unemployed workers to fill them.”

There’s no data to support that claim, and good reason to think it is false. During the Korean War, for example, the unemployment rate was at or below the current 3.7 percent for all of 1951, 1952 and the first 11 months of 1953. It reached 2.5 percent in May and June 1953.

So we know there was a smaller share of people seeking work then than now. Could that be true if there were not plenty of unfilled job openings as well? We don’t think so.

Even earlier, during World War II, the demand for wartime workers drew women into the workforce in previously unimagined numbers, and into previously all-male jobs. “Rosie the Riveter” might well have been as skeptical of Ivanka Trump’s claim as we are.

And what of the booming economy of the “Roaring 20s,” when by some estimates unemployment dropped to 2.9 percent, much lower than today?

Yet this GOP talking point lives on, as in this Nov. 13 mis-tweet from the Republican National Committee, grandly claiming that job openings exceed job seekers “for the first time in our nation’s history.” It’s unsupported, and probably false.

“Our nation currently boasts more than seven million open jobs — more than the entire population of the state of Massachusetts. For the first time in our nation’s history, there is more than one job opening for every American who’s looking for work.” –@senatemajldr

— GOP (@GOP) November 13, 2018

If Republicans wish to be factual when boasting about the economy, they should stick to saying job openings exceed job seekers for the first time “on record,” and drop the grand claims about “history.”

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Trump Jr.’s False Noncitizen Voting Tweet

Amid a contentious Florida recount, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a six-year-old, and outdated, story to suggest hundreds of thousands of noncitizens could have voted in the state. The story includes an update saying just 85 noncitizens were ultimately removed from the state’s voter rolls in 2012.

On Nov. 12, Trump Jr. tweeted the “Amazing, but not shocking at all anymore” headline from an NBC Miami story that said, “Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens.” But an editor’s note posted to the top of the story before he tweeted about it made clear that the figure from state officials turned out to be deeply flawed.

Amazing, but not shocking at all anymore. Nearly 200,000 Florida Voters May Not Be Citizens https://t.co/8HiObPLeeM via @nbc6

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) November 12, 2018

The story, written by the Associated Press, originates with an effort by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to direct state officials to search out noncitizens on Florida’s voter rolls, and to purge them prior to the 2012 elections. (Scott is now locked in a razor-close race to unseat Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.) Using a state database of driver’s licenses, the state initially came up with a list of about 180,000 names of people on the state’s voting rolls who might not be citizens. Noncitizens are not legally allowed to vote in federal elections.

That was the basis for the headline in the May 11, 2012, story posted on the NBC Miami website, “2012 Election: Nearly 200,000 Voters May Not Be Citizens.”

But readers of Trump Jr.’s tweet only need to click on the link he included to see the editor’s note explaining how that number turned out to be wildly off.

NBC Miami, Editor’s note on Nov. 12, 2018: This story was published in May 2012.

The initial list of 180,000 names was whittled to 2,625, according to the Florida Department of State. The state then checked a federal database and stated it found 207 noncitizens on the rolls (not necessarily voting but on the rolls). That list was sent to county election supervisors to check and it also turned out to contain errors. An Aug. 1, 2012, state elections document showed only 85 noncitizens were ultimately removed from the rolls out of a total of about 12 million voters at that time.

The original list from state officials was rife with errors. One major flaw: The driver’s license database didn’t include when legal residents later became citizens.

The list sparked a 2012 lawsuit. Two of the plaintiffs, Karla Arcia, a Nicaraguan immigrant, and Melande Antoine, who is a Haitian American, found themselves on the list even though both are naturalized citizens who were eligible to vote in the 2012 elections.

As the original NBC Miami story explains, the initial list of about 180,000 names was later reduced to about 2,600 (which turned out to include an American war veteran). That list was later pared to 207 when checked against a federal database. County elections supervisors found errors in that list too, and when PolitiFact Florida in 2013 asked the division of elections for data, it provided a list of just 85 “noncitizens” ultimately removed from voter rolls. (It was unclear how many of those people may have actually voted illegally.)

“It was sloppy, it was slapdash and it was inaccurate,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards in 2013 of the original list of 180,000 names. “They were sending us names of people to remove because they were born in Puerto Rico. It was disgusting.”

The Scott administration scrapped plans in 2014 to revive efforts to purge noncitizens from voter rolls.

“What we have seen from past efforts is that it has not been successful in identifying ineligible voters,” Deirdre Macnab, president of the Florida League of Voters, said at the time.

As we have written, President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about widespread illegal voting by noncitizens, citing a disputed study and warning just prior to the 2016 president election that their votes could swing the outcome of his race. The president has cited research by Old Dominion University Professors Jesse Richman and David Earnest, who extrapolated data from a national election survey in which some people self-identified as noncitizens, but indicated that they voted. They estimated somewhere between 38,000 and 2.8 million noncitizens voted illegally in 2008.

But as we wrote, that study has been strongly challenged by other academics, including the managers of the database from which the study drew. Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard and the principal investigator of the voter database told us the findings about noncitizen voters were likely “entirely due to measurement error” — people who accidentally check the wrong box in surveys. The Washington Post‘s “Monkey Cage” blog, which published an article by the Old Dominion professors about their research, later linked to three rebuttals of it.

The Old Dominion research was highlighted by Republican Kris Kobach — the Kansas secretary of state who recently lost a race to be the state’s governor — in a federal court case in Kansas City earlier this year that sought to prove rampant illegal voting by noncitizens. According to an in-depth Pro Publica story on the trial, the judge in the case, Julie Robinson, called the conclusions of the study “confusing, inconsistent and methodologically flawed.” Robinson found “no credible evidence that a substantial number of noncitizens registered to vote” in Kansas.

Trump tapped Kobach to be vice chairman of the since-disbanded Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — which was to examine “fraudulent voting,” among other issues. The commission was dissolved just months after it was created, and there has been no evidence to date of widespread fraud.

To be sure, there have been some cases of noncitizens voting illegally. As we wrote previously, a 2015 report  from the conservative Heritage Foundation documented fewer than a dozen individual cases of noncitizens convicted of registering or actually voting since 2000. And in Texas, a city councilwoman, was sentenced in 2007 to five years in prison for registering noncitizens to vote.

But such cases are rare, experts told us. Sarah Pierce, an associate policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, said there’s very little evidence of it, in part because the disincentives are enormous. It is illegal for an unauthorized immigrant to vote, and it is a deportable offense that makes a person permanently inadmissible for return to the U.S., she said.

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Video: Trump on His Tax Returns

CNN’s Jake Tapper examines President Donald Trump’s claims about his tax returns in this week’s fact-checking video.

After Democrats won the House majority in the midterm elections, opening the possibility they might issue a subpoena to obtain the president’s tax returns, a reporter asked the president about his refusal to release them. The issue dates back to the 2016 campaign, when Trump, unlike every other major party candidate for president since 1980, declined to make his returns public.

In the Nov. 7 press conference, Trump reiterated that he wouldn’t release his tax returns because they were under audit. He said “you get far more” from the legally required financial disclosure forms he had filed “than you could ever get from a tax return.” But such forms don’t reveal effective tax rates, charitable giving and how the president complies with, or benefits from, tax laws.

Joseph J. Thorndike, director of the Tax Analysts’ Tax History Project, told us the financial disclosure form, which includes assets and liabilities, does a better job of showing net worth, but it has “no information about the president’s tax behavior,” including a “sense of how he structured his businesses to minimize his taxes.”

Trump also wrongly claimed, “Nobody turns over a return when it’s under audit, okay?” Richard Nixon did when he was president.

In the midst of a tax scandal in late 1973, the IRS reopened an audit of Nixon’s returns. And during that audit, the White House released tax returns for several years, according to a paper on the issue by Thorndike.

Also, most presidents since the 1970s have released their tax returns publicly despite the fact that presidents and vice presidents are automatically subject to annual IRS audits, according to the Internal Revenue Manual.

For more on this issue, see our Nov. 9 story “The President’s Tax Returns.” And for previous videos in our collaboration with Tapper and CNN’s “State of the Union,” please see our website.

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California Shooting Prompts ‘Crisis Actor’ Conspiracy

Q: Was Susan Orfanos, the mother of a shooting victim in Thousand Oaks, California, also interviewed by news outlets after other mass shootings in 2016 and 2017?

A: No. A Facebook post misidentifies two other women as Orfanos.  

FULL ANSWER

Following the Nov. 7 shooting in a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, that left 13 people dead, the mother of one of the victims made a tearful, forceful plea for gun control in front of cameras.

“I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control,” Susan Orfanos said. “And I hope to God nobody else sends me any more prayers. I want gun control. No more guns.”

Orfanos’ son, U.S. Navy veteran Telemachus “Tel” Orfanos, had previously survived the mass October 2017 Las Vegas shooting before being killed in the Borderline Bar & Grill.

Now, conspiracy theorists have used images of the mother alongside photos of women affected by other mass shootings to advance the idea that she is an actor, and that they are all the same person. The fact-free assertion is not unlike claims we debunked about the students who survived the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting.

A Facebook user, who appears to subscribe to the massive “QAnon” conspiracy theory, spread the unsubstantiated claim about Orfanos by posting a screenshot of her interview with screenshots of a mother and of a victim from other mass shootings. He wrote: “JUST SO YOU KNOW NOT ONLY WAS SHE A MOM OF THE CALIFORNIA AND ORLANDO SHOOTINGS, BUT SHE WAS A VITCIM (sic) OF THE Las Vegas SHOOTING TOO!! 😂😂😂”

The other images are not of Orfanos, nor do they resemble her — something that didn’t stop thousands from sharing and liking versions of the conspiracy theory through memes and posts on TwitterInstagram and YouTube.

The woman wearing a pink shirt in the Facebook post is actually Christine Leinonen, whose son, Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, died in the 2016 Orlando, Florida, shooting in the Pulse nightclub. The image of Leinonen is taken from an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos before she learned that her son had been killed.

Leinonen has since helped form the Dru Project, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, and spoke in favor of gun control at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Another woman falsely identified as being Orfanos is Jan Lambourne, who was shot in the abdomen during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and survived. The image in the Facebook post is a screenshot from a CBC News interview she gave while recovering in the hospital. Lambourne, of the Manitoba province of Canada, can be seen in more recent photographs in a report documenting her recovery.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

Bernhardt, Darren. “Wounded Manitoban hid under wheelbarrow to survive Las Vegas massacre.” CBC News. 3 Oct 2017.

Keneally, Meghan and Doug Lantz. “Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Searching for Answers.” ABC News. 13 Jun 2016.

Law, Tara. “Navy Veteran Survived Las Vegas Shooting Only to Be Killed in the Borderline Bar 1 Year Later.” 9 Nov 2018.

Stanley-Becker, Isaac. “Thousand Oaks parents: ‘I don’t want prayers. I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control.’” The Washington Post. 9 Nov 2018.

Stewart, Briar. “‘I still need to heal’: 1 year after the Vegas massacre, a Canadian survivor struggles.” CBC News. 20 Sep 2018.

Team.” The Dru Project. Accessed 13 Nov 2018.

Villa, Lissandra. “Read the Emotional Speech From an Orlando Victim’s Mother.” Time. 28 Jul 2016.

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