Democratic debate: CNN’s Reality Check team vets the claims

Posted at 9:15 PM, Apr 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-14 23:38:12-04

By CNN's Reality Check Team

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders met in Brooklyn Thursday for their last debate before New York's primary, and CNN's Reality Check team spent the night putting their statements and assertions to the test.

The team of reporters, researchers and editors across CNN listened throughout the debate, selecting key statements and rating them either true; mostly true; true, but misleading; false; or it's complicated.

Bernie Sanders

Reality Check: Sanders 'led the opposition' to war in Iraq

By Sonam Vashi and Eve Bower, CNN

Early in the New York debate, Sanders drew a contrast between what he called Clinton's lack of "judgment" in supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq and his own opposition to that war.

"I led the opposition to that war," Sanders said. "Secretary Clinton voted for it."

The claim is one he has made frequently on the campaign trail, including at a previous debate, when he said, "In 2002, when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney said we should go to war in Iraq, Bernie Sanders listened very carefully and I said, 'No. I think that war is a dumb idea.' I helped lead the opposition to that war. And if you go to my website, listen to what I said, and sadly enough, it gives me no joy, much of what I feared would happen, did happen."

Sanders was in the House of Representatives at the time. In October 2002, he made a statement on the floor of the House that criticized the idea of invading Iraq, citing concerns about international law and unintended consequences.

"Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S. play in an ensuing civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists?" he asked.

His 2002 statement is the best documented evidence of his opposition to the war, and he also voted against the authorization of military force in Iraq in 2002 (one of 133 members of Congress to do so). He also spoke out against the war in a 2007 address to the Senate.

But was he at the forefront of the opposition? We can't find much evidence of that -- at least not to the point of other congressional opposition leaders on the issue, such as then-Sen. Russ Feingold, who gave several speeches against the war and introduced legislation to cut off its funding.

The late Ted Kennedy did the same in the days before the war and after.

Sanders voted against Iraq War funding six times but supported four funding bills after 2006 (his volunteer-run site offers justifications for why he did fund those bills).

While perhaps not at the level of Feingold or Kennedy, Sanders spoke out against it during a time when opposition to the war in Iraq was rare. (For example, Clinton, then a New York senator, voted yes on the Iraq War resolution, as Sanders often notes). We rate his claim that he "helped lead" the opposition mostly true.

Reality Check: Sanders on the major banks

By Tami Luhby, CNNMoney

It didn't take Sanders long to attack Wall Street banks.

"When you have six financial institutions that have assets equivalent to 58% of the (gross domestic product) of this country, they were just too big, too much concentration of wealth and power," Sanders said.

The nation's biggest financial institutions were JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, as of December 2015, according to Federal Reserve Bank data. Their assets totaled just under $9.7 trillion.

Meanwhile, the U.S. GDP, a measure of the U.S. economy, was $18.2 trillion.

So the assets of the six largest institutions totaled roughly 53.2% of the GDP.

The size of bank assets and the GDP shift every quarter, but Sanders' stat is in the ballpark. For that reason, we rate his claim mostly true.

Reality Check: Clinton was 'busy giving speeches' to banks during financial crisis, Sanders says

Kevin Liptak, CNN

Sanders hammered Clinton for giving speeches to financial institutions, suggesting they had influenced her decisions on how to respond to the financial crisis.

Saying he'd supported breaking up large banks amid the financial meltdown, Sanders said, "Secretary Clinton was busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs for $225,000 a speech."

Later, after Clinton detailed her efforts as a senator to pass the Dodd-Frank financial regulation, Sanders scoffed, "They must have been really crushed by this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements?"

Clinton's record of delivering speeches to Goldman Sachs is well documented at this point in the campaign. Clinton's financial disclosure forms show she earned at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks.

But those speeches were delivered in the years after her tenure as secretary of state, and well after her time as senator. Clinton left the Senate officially in January 2009 when she assumed her role as the top U.S. diplomat as the financial crisis was swelling.

Her speeches to large banks came after she left her post as secretary of state: three speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013 for $225,000 each, three speeches to UBS Bank of America for the same price, and a pair of addresses to Deutsche Bank for $225,000 and $260,000 each.

Sanders' claims on Clinton's speeches is true and well documented. But to suggest those remarks -- and their subsequent paychecks -- influenced Clinton's decision-making as a senator is misleading, since they were delivered well after she left Capitol Hill.

Verdict: True, but misleading.

Hillary Clinton

Reality Check: Clinton says she supported $15 minimum wage

By Tom LoBianco, CNN

Debating Sanders in New York, where state lawmakers recently approved a $15-an-hour minimum wage, Clinton strongly suggested that she had been pushing for that much throughout her campaign.

"I have supported the fight for 15. I am proud to have the endorsement of most of the unions that have led the fight for 15. I was proud to stand on the stage with Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo, with (Service Employees International Union) and others who have been leading this battle, and I will work as hard as I can to raise the minimum wage. I always have. I supported that when I was in the Senate," Clinton said.

Sanders, who introduced a bill to set the federal minimum wage at $15, quickly shot back, "I am sure a lot of people are very surprised to learn that you supported raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour."

Clinton has long supported raising the minimum wage, but only recently came around to supporting a $15 minimum wage.

In November, she proposed a $12 federal minimum wage, and said it should be left to localities to decide whether they wanted to raise the wage further.

The Clinton campaign explains on its website: "Hillary believes we are long overdue in raising the minimum wage. She has supported raising the federal minimum wage to $12, and believes that we should go further than the federal minimum through state and local efforts, and workers organizing and bargaining for higher wages, such as the Fight for 15 and recent efforts in Los Angeles and New York to raise their minimum wage to $15. She also supports the Obama administration's expansion of overtime rules to millions more workers."

But cities and states already have the power to raise their own minimum wages -- something cities and states across the nation have been doing for more than a year now. Clinton placed a point on it when she stood by Cuomo earlier this month at a rally shortly after he signed the state's new $15 minimum wage.

Verdict: True, but misleading.

CNN's Chad Weaver, Justin Gamble and Katelyn Newman contributed to this report.

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