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Fact-checking the second presidential debate

Last Updated Oct 9, 2016 11:05 PM EDT

11:05 p.m. Donald Trump claims that Russia and Syria are fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

TRUMP STATEMENT: “I don’t like Assad at all but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS and those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

FACT CHECK: False.

Russian and Syrian airstrikes have been targeted at rebel-held areas of Syria, not in regions controlled by ISIS. A Syrian opposition monitoring group found that 9,364 rebels had been killed by Russian air strikes in the last year, according to the Washington Post. As for Iran’s involvement in the Syrian war, the country’s main focus is to keep Assad in power by providing his government with military supplies, training and intelligence.  

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan

10:46 p.m. Hillary Clinton claims her rival’s tax plan will give corporations and the wealthiest Americans the largest tax breaks they’ve ever had.

CLINTON STATEMENT: “His plan will give the wealthy and corporations the biggest tax cuts they’ve ever had. More than the Bush tax cuts  by at least a factor of two. Donald takes care of Donald, and people like Donald, and this would be a massive gift.”

FACT CHECK: True, as far as CBS News can tell -- though not every facet of Trump’s plan is spelled out.

A recent Tax Foundation analysis found that Trump’s plan would cost an average of $440 billion annually. That would make Trump’s tax breaks larger than President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which cost an average of $200 billion annually. The current plan is also larger than President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut, which cost an average of $91.5 billion annually.

--CBS News’ Kate Rydell

10:43 p.m. Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton was secretary of State when President Obama drew the “red line” on Syria.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “She was there as secretary of state with the so-called line in the sand,” Trump said. Clinton denied it. “No, I wasn’t,” she said. “I was gone.” 

FACT CHECK: True. Trump is right: he was likely referring to President Obama’s statement in August 2012, that “we have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Hillary Clinton served as secretary of State until 2013.

--CBS News’ Carrie Rabin

10:42 p.m. Donald Trump says U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens sent hundreds of requests for help in Benghazi before the 2012 attacks.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “Ambassador Stevens sent 600 requests for help.”

FACT CHECK: Partly true.

This is not the first time Trump has used that 600 number, which conflates “requests” for help and “concerns.” The figure comes from a chart created by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which adds all requests and concerns from Libya to the State Department. That combined figure does come close to 600.

--CBS News’ Kate Rydell

10:31 p.m. Donald Trump claims that Clinton’s 2008 campaign sent photos around with Obama in “certain garb.”

TRUMP STATEMENT: “You really owe [Mr. Obama] an apology. You’re the one that sent the pictures around your campaign, sent the pictures around with President Obama in a certain garb ... That was long before I was ever involved.”     

FACT CHECK: Unclear.

In 2008, then-Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused Hillary Clinton’s campaign of sharing a photo of the president in African dress. Politico noted that the photo in question showed Mr. Obama in the dress of a Somali elder during a 2006 visit to northeastern Kenya. Plouffe accused her campaign of circulating the photo in “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

Clinton’s campaign did not deny sending the photos and responded by calling the issue “nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country. However, Clinton told MSNBC at the time that “so far as I know” it didn’t come from her campaign.

--CBS News’ Kate Rydell

10:18 p.m. Donald Trump claims drugs are “pouring” through the U.S.-Mexico border, that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement endorsed him, and that Hillary Clinton wants “amnesty for everybody.”

TRUMP STATEMENT: “We are also letting drugs pour through our southern border at a record clip. At a record clip…and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. ICE just endorsed me. They have never endorsed a presidential candidate. The border patrol agents 16,500 just recently endorsed me and they endorsed me because I understand the border. She doesn’t. She wants amnesty for everybody.”

FACT CHECK: Partially true, partially false.

It is true that there has been an increase in heroin flowing across the southern border. According to the Congressional Research Service, Mexican transnational criminal organizations have increased their share of the U.S. drug market, particularly with respect to heroin, and heroin seizures in the Southwest border region more than doubled from 2010 to 2015.

It is not true that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency, endorsed Trump. That would be a violation of the Hatch Act, which limits the involvement of executive branch employees in election and partisan political activity. The union for border patrol agents, which is a separate entity, did endorse Trump.

It is not true that Clinton supports “amnesty for everybody,” but she does want to make it easier for people who came here illegally to stay by passing legislation with a path to citizenship. If that does not work, she has promised to “enact a simple system for those with sympathetic cases...to make their case and be eligible for deferred action.” She has said that she would focus on deporting violent criminals.

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan

10:13 p.m. Donald Trump says “tens of thousands” of people from Syria are coming to the U.S.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “We are going to areas like Syria, where they’re coming in by the tens of thousands.”

FACT CHECK: False.

The State Department says about 12,500 Syrian refugees will be admitted this year.  Before that, 2,234 came to the United States between Oct. 2010 and Nov 2015. This is not tens of thousands.

--CBS News’ Carrie Rabin

10:11 p.m. Donald Trump says he was against the war in Iraq, and that suggestions he was not have been debunked.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “I was against the war in Iraq,” Trump said, as he did in the first debate with Clinton. “It has not been debunked.”

FACT CHECK: False and false.

Donald Trump supported the invasion of Iraq. Howard Stern interviewed Donald Trump on Sept. 11, 2002, noted BuzzFeed, and he asked Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump responded, “Yeah, I guess so.”

CBS News and other news outlets have, on multiple occasions, fact-checked Trump’s claims that he opposed the war and found them to be false.

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan

10:10 p.m. Hillary Clinton claims that Donald Trump’s rhetoric is helping jihadists recruit new members.

CLINTON STATEMENT: “You can look at the propaganda on a lot of the terrorists’ sites and what Donald Trump says about Muslims is used to recruit fighters.”

FACT CHECK: True. Clips of Donald Trump talking about Muslims has appeared in jihadist propaganda. According to the Washington Post, a propaganda video from the al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab does include footage of Trump talking last year about his plan to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.

--CBS News’ Allyson Ross-Taylor

10:06 p.m. Donald Trump claims that “many people” saw bombs at the apartment of the San Bernardino shooters.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “We have to be sure that Muslims come in and report when they see something going on. When they see hatred going on, they have to report it. As an example: San Bernardino, many people saw the bombs all over the apartment of the two people that killed 14 and wounded many, many people.”

FACT CHECK: False. To this day, no one has said they’ve seen bombs in the apartment of the San Bernardino shooters’ apartment. An unidentified man noted that he saw suspicious activity surrounding their apartment, but made no mention of weapons or anything actionable. As the man told CBS’ Los Angeles affiliate, “We noticed, one day like six Middle Eastern guys walk by across the street, kind of dressed nice, and they would walk around and go over to state street and eat there, because I saw them eating there when I went to the paint store, and we sat around thinking what’re those guys doing in this neighborhood?”

--CBS News’ DJ Judd and Allyson Ross-Taylor

10:03 p.m. Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton will not say the phrase “radical Islam.”

TRUMP STATEMENT: “When there’s a problem, you have to state what the problem is or at least say the name. She won’t say the name and President Obama won’t say the name.”

FACT CHECK: False. Clinton used the term in June during an interview on NBC News’ “Today Show.” She appeared on the program on June 13, following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. 

“To me, radical  jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing,” Clinton said. “I’m happy to say either. But that’s not the point.”

--CBS News’ Ellee Watson

10:02 p.m. Hillary Clinton claims there is no evidence anyone hacked her private email server.

CLINTON STATEMENT: “After a yearlong investigation there is no evidence that anyone hacked the server I was using. And there is no evidence that anyone can point to at all – anyone that says otherwise has no basis that any classified material ended up in the wrong hands. I take classified material very seriously…and always have.”

FACT CHECK: Mostly true, but with a caveat: though there’s no evidence Clinton’s server was accessed, as FBI Director James Comey noted, there would be little evidence if they had. Comey also notes there is evidence that a number of people that Clinton was in correspondence with did have their emails hacked.

On July 5, Comey said, “With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal email domain in its various configuration since 2009 was hacked successfully.”

Still, Comey said there may not necessarily be “direct evidence,” were the server to have been hacked. “We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent.”

--CBS News’ DJ Judd

9:55 p.m. Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after receiving a subpoena from Congress.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “She said the 33,000 emails had to do with her daughter’s wedding, number one, and a yoga class. Maybe we’ll give three or three or four or five, or something. 33,000 emails deleted. And now she’s saying there wasn’t anything wrong. And more importantly that was after getting a subpoena, that wasn’t before, that was after she got it from the United States Congress.”

FACT CHECK: Mostly true.

Clinton gave 30,490 work-related emails to the State Department in December 2014 and deleted an additional 31,830 she said were personal emails (she did, indeed, say these were related to “planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes”).

The FBI later found 14,900 emails that Clinton had not handed over among the deleted files. The FBI said that Clinton’s emails were deleted sometime between March 25 and 31, 2015, which was after Clinton was subpoenaed by the House of Representatives on March 4, 2015.

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan

9:50 p.m. Donald Trump claims that Bill Clinton was impeached, lost his law license and had to pay Paula Jones $850,000.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “What President Clinton did, he was Impeached, he lost his license to practice law, he had to pay an $850,000 fine to one of the women, Paula Jones, who’s also here tonight.”

FACT CHECK: Mostly true. Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and his testimony about it in the course of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones.

Clinton resigned from the Arkansas bar in 2001 for five years as part of an agreement with the special prosecutor in the Lewinsky case. He was not permanently disbarred, and was eligible to reinstate his law license. 

Clinton did pay Paula Jones $850,000 to settle the case.

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan

9:49 p.m. Donald Trump claims his rival Hillary Clinton used an expensive process to delete the emails from her private server.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “You get a subpoena and after getting the subpoena you delete 33,000 emails and then you acid wash them. Or bleach them, as you would say -- a very expensive process.”

FACT CHECK: Trump is correct that Clinton used a computer program called “BleachBit” to delete thousands of her emails. But the program can be downloaded online for free and it does not use chemicals. A footnote on an FBI investigation document noted that BleachBit is “open source software that allows users to ‘shred’ files, clear Internet history, delete system and temporary files and wipe free space on a hard drive.”

--CBS News’ Carrie Rabin

9:46 p.m. Donald Trump claims that the Affordable Care Act is causing skyrocketing health insurance costs.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “When I watch what’s happening some horrible things like Obamacare where your health insurance, your health care is going up by numbers that are astronomical. Sixty-eight percent, 59 percent, 71 percent.”

FACT CHECK: Partly true. Premiums are going up, but Trump is greatly exaggerating how much of a cost increase any given insurance plan has undergone. Nationally, premiums on average have increased from 4.4 percent to 13 percent, according to Politifact’s reported estimates. Additionally, the Kaiser Foundation reported an average increase of 10 percent for their 2016-2017 insurance plans.

--CBS News’ Kate Rydell

9:45 p.m. Donald Trump claims Hillary Clinton represented a man who raped a 12-year-old girl, and laughed about the case.

TRUMP STATEMENT: Bill Clinton was abusive to women, Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously. Four of them are here tonight: one of the women, who is a wonderful woman at 12 years old was raped at 12, her client she represented got him off and she’s seen laughing on two separate occasions laughing at the girl who was raped, Kathy Shelton.

FACT CHECK: Partly true. Clinton did represent a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. The charges against the man were ultimately reduced in a plea agreement. There is an audio record (so she is not seen) of Clinton laughing in a conversation about the case, though she was laughing not at the girl, but at another aspect of the case. 

But the Washington Post noted that in her autobiography, “Living History,” Clinton wrote that she told the prosecutor in the case, “I really don’t feel comfortable taking on such a client, but [the prosecutor] gently reminded me that I couldn’t very well refuse the judge’s request.” Ultimately, the prosecution’s case against the man fell apart for other reasons, the Post notes, including investigators’ mishandling of evidence. 

--CBS News’ Allyson Ross Taylor

9:31 p.m. Donald Trump says the trade deficit was almost $800 billion in 2015.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “Last year, we had an almost $800 billion trade deficit.”

FACT CHECK: True. In 2015, the US had a negative $762.565 billion balance of payments, according to the Census Bureau, though it’s worth noting that the total deficit, which factors in both goods and services, is only negative $500.361 billion.

--CBS News’ DJ Judd

9:24 p.m. Donald Trump claims that the Iran nuclear deal meant the United States paid Iran $150 billion.

TRUMP STATEMENT: “When I look at the Iran deal and how bad it is for us, it’s a one-sided transaction where we’re giving back $150 billion dollars to a terrorist state.”

FACT CHECK: False. The money that Iran is able to access under the nuclear deal was Iranian currency that was frozen through various sanctions over the years. Additionally, Politifact cites experts as saying that the frozen Iranian assets are estimated at closer to $100 billion; $150 billion is a very high estimate.

The U.S. in return was able to compel Iran to take several steps that will slow its ability to produce a nuclear weapon: They must destroy stockpiles of enriched uranium, slow plutonium production, dismantle a plutonium reactor, and give international nuclear inspectors access to its facilities, among other things.

--CBS News’ Rebecca Kaplan  

9:00 p.m. The candidates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, have just walked onto the debate stage.

As things get underway, check out CBS News’ fact-checking live blogs from the past two debates: one from the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in September, and one from the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University last week.

8:15 p.m. The second presidential debate is less than an hour away: after a bombshell 2005 tape of Donald Trump’s lewd comments about women emerged Friday, the aftermath has upended his campaign and dominated the news cycle. That tape will be the subject of the first round of questions during tonight’s face-off.

Shortly before the debate began, Donald Trump invited the pooled press for a press statement with women who have accused President Bill Clinton of sexual assault or rape including Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, and Kathleen Willey. The other participant was Kathy Shelton, the lone woman among the four who made no accusation toward Bill Clinton. She was 12 years old in 1975 when she was allegedly raped by 41-year-old factory worker Thomas Alfred Taylor. Hillary Clinton was the young lawyer who defended Taylor. She had asked to be relieved of the responsibility of defending him but was not, and she later said in an interview she had a professional duty to represent him to the best of her ability, which, she said she did. His charges were ultimately reduced from rape to “unlawful fondling of a child under 14.” He served 10 months of a year-long sentence. 

The candidates are at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., for a town-hall style debate. Half the questions will be asked by the moderators, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz, and half will be asked by undecided voters in the audience.

CBS News’ team of fact-checkers are listening closely to both candidates and will be posting here when their statements need additional scrutiny.

Check back here for updates throughout the debate.

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.