EPISODE 2: YOLANDA
Compiled & Synthesized by Holly A. Shibley and Samia Mounts
00:03:11 What kinds of changes did Donald Trump promise during his presidential campaign?
Yolanda stated that Trump’s message resonated with her because of his promises of change to better the lives of the American people. In her first example, Yolanda mentioned Trump’s desire to help small businesses. She also mentions Trump’s plan to lower taxes for the middle class, support better choices of education, and create jobs.
Trump did, in fact, campaign for small businesses across America. His main focus was to reduce taxes and, more importantly, regulations. This was a selling point for most small-business Trump supporters. In January 2017, the Small Business Regulations Survey was released and found that small businesses spend nearly $12,000 per year on compliance with regulations alone, so less regulations could be beneficial to small businesses.
Trump’s proposed tax plan was a cut across the board. This was a hot topic for all the candidates on both sides of the party line. However, a detailed analysis of his plan showed that this in fact was not a cut for the middle class, but rather a tax cut benefit for the top 1 percent. The plan would also cause about a $10 trillion revenue loss for the federal government in the next ten years. For a really detailed analysis, here is the report from the Tax Policy Center.
In Trump’s proposed budget plan, he calls for large cuts to and the elimination of many federal programs, including Medicaid, scientific and medical research, funding for Planned Parenthood, and national arts and humanities programs. The only federal programs that would receive increases in current spending levels are for defense and homeland security.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s team has repeatedly touted this plan as putting “taxpayers first,” according to the plan’s primary architect, Mick Mulvaney. However, their assessment seems wildly out of touch with public opinion, according to several of the most recent polls on the subject. For example, a majority of Americans want to increase spending on programs that help the poor, like food stamps and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.
A key point during the campaign was education, specifically low-income families’ ability to find quality education, or what’s known as “school choice.” After the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, the Trump administration sought a $9.2 billion cut to the Department of Education’s budget. A great deal of that budget is aimed towards Trump’s key priorities, expansion of charter schools, private-school vouchers, and other alternatives to traditional public schools. The budget plan also seeks to change the current Title 1 rules, which were designed to help children from low-income families meet demanding Federal academic standards by providing funding to schools with a high percentage of low-income students and to local educational agencies, or LEAs.
While school choice sounds good in theory, the practice of it in Devos’s home state of Michigan has not resulted in low-income children getting a better education. In fact, the opposite has come to pass - while families in Michigan have plenty of choices, thanks in large part to Devos’s lobbying efforts, the charter schools in that state have abysmal records for educational quality. The whole idea is that applying the principles of a free market to educational institutions leads to competition, and therefore, higher quality institutions.
Unfortunately, the results have been mixed across the nation, with some studies showing public schools outperforming charter schools, and others showing the opposite, depending on geographical location. In Chicago, for example, charter schools are really popular and have been shown to out-perform public school in that city. In Michigan, not so much. Opponents of school choice argue that focusing on funding charter schools will lead to the destruction of our country’s public school system, while proponents say those predictions are just catastrophic thinking and that choice will ultimately be good for the quality of our educational system, especially for low-income students. Charter schools haven’t been around long enough to really draw strong conclusions about their benefits, but from what I can tell, their success all depends on how well they are run and kept accountable by their state governments.
On January 11, 2017, Trump stated in his first news conference, “"I said I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created, and I mean that." After his first 100 days in office, the White House released a document claiming that Trump created over 500,000 new jobs and lowered the unemployment rate to 4.5%. These claims, however, are misleading.
First of all, the unemployment rate when Trump was inaugurated as President was already very low at 4.8%. It has lowered by .1% every month since Trump has become President, but it’s hard to say how much credit he himself deserves for that.
Also, the number of new jobs created - 533,000 - includes January, a month when Trump was only President for the last 11 eleven days. If you eliminate the month of January and only look at February and March (numbers for April weren’t released yet when the White House published the document in question) the number drops to 317,000. By comparison, one year earlier during the same two months, our nation saw 462,000 new jobs created under the Obama Administration. Politifact rates Trump’s claims as only half true, and also states that it’s hard to say how much credit any President deserves for job growth, as there are lots of other factors involved.
00:05:19 Did Trump broker a deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to bring thousands of jobs to the US?
No, not even a little bit.
In this part of the conversation, Yolanda is reading from this Breitbart article.
TSMC is the world’s largest independent semiconductor foundry and a major supplier of microchips to Apple. In January 2017, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang made public comments praising Trump’s stated goals of bringing more jobs to the US - but he also said TSMC has already been creating jobs in the US for decades. Trump had nothing to do with this. There was no mention, even in the Breitbart article, of Trump brokering any kind of deal with TSMC or Chang. The whole story was just about Chang saying something nice about Trump, not about any deals that had been made or would be made.
Hilariously, the text of the Breitbart article is identical to the text of this article from phys.org. I don’t know who stole from whom, but I could take a guess. The exact same article also appeared on the Daily Mail, another media outlet that has been criticized for lacking credibility.
Yolanda claims that Trump spoke with Morris Chang about this, but I can’t find any evidence of a conversation between the two men.
00:07:53 Did Trump broker deals with Ford, Apple, or Chrysler to bring more jobs to the US?
No on all counts.
Ford canceled plans to build a plant in Mexico and decided to invest $700 million into building one in Michigan instead, creating 700 new jobs in the US. The CEO, Mark Fields, said this move should be seen as a “vote of confidence” in Trump’s plan to make the US more pro-business. But he also said, “We didn't cut a deal with Trump. We did it for our business.”
Trump has attempted to apply pressure to Apple to get them to relocate their manufacturing operations to the US, but Apple has not agreed to do it, citing the lack of properly skilled workers in the US. While there have been reports that Apple is exploring the possibility of moving some of its production to the US, Forbes analysts predict that it’s unlikely the company will actually do so, due to the price increase it would likely cause.
In January 2017, Chrysler’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, announced a plan to invest $1 billion in plants in Michigan and Ohio, creating 2000 jobs, but their spokeswoman, Jodi Tinson, flatly denied that Trump had anything to do with the decision, saying, “This plan was in the works back in 2015. The announcement…was just final confirmation.”
For a running fact-check on all of Trump’s claims taking credit for bringing jobs back to the US, check out this comprehensive list from CNN.
00:08:18 Will Trump’s plan of cutting corporate taxes lead to more jobs in the US?
It’s a nice theory, but economists and analysts say that the cuts will more likely benefit shareholders than the nation’s economy. Essentially, the money saved by a lower corporate tax rate, if historical precedent teaches us anything, will more likely go to companies’ shareholders instead of being invested in the US economy and job creation.
00:09:25 What exactly did Trump negotiate with the Carrier Company?
I misspoke here, saying that Trump promised governmental incentives of $700 million to Carrier in exchange for not moving their Indianapolis plant to Mexico. The number was actually $7 million in tax incentives, to be stretched out over the next decade, and Trump notably lied about how many jobs were actually being saved. He put the number at 1100, which was widely repeated in news reports, but it was actually 800.
Since all that hullabaloo about the 800 jobs being saved back in December 2016, Carrier has announced that it will be cutting at least 600 jobs this year - nearly three hundred of them right before Christmas. The company also said it will be investing heavily in automation, which will result in even more job losses.
So…not exactly a win for Trump.
00:11:45 Did Fox News run a top headline about the border wall when everyone else was reporting on Mike Flynn resigning?
Okay, so I have a VERY clear memory of this happening, but I must be confusing it with another big news day. After checking every snapshot from Fox News on February 14, 2017 on the Wayback Machine, Fox's headlines were indeed dominated by the resignation of Michael Flynn. I’ve been telling that story for months, which makes it so much worse that I was totally wrong here.
00:13:09 Did millions of illegal immigrants vote in the 2016 election, costing Trump the popular vote?
No, and I’m so sick of debunking this claim.
Trump won the electoral college 306 to 232, but he lost the popular vote 62,984,825 to 65,853,516, or 46.4% to 48.5%.
No evidence has ever been provided to prove the claim that millions of illegal immigrates voted in the election, causing Trump to lose the popular vote. The Trump administration has never provided proof of this claim either.
I asked Yolanda to provide me some of her sources that brought her to this conclusion. Here’s one article she sent about twelve employees of the Indiana Voter Registration Project being criminally charged for submitting falsified voter registration applications.
But if you read the coverage on the same story from the Washington Post, you find out that none of the falsified applications were used to cast fraudulent ballots in the election. The prosecutor in the case, Terry Curry, said, “Let me be clear that these are not allegations of voter fraud nor is there any evidence to suggest that voter fraud was the alleged motivation.” The employees were actually just trying to avoid termination by filling their registration quotas. Curry went on to say, “We do not believe this was a widespread effort to infringe voters, intentionally register ineligible individuals, or to impact the election. Instead we allege that a bad business practice led to illegal actions by the local association and these 12 individuals.”
That was the only piece of “evidence” she provided me with to prove her theory that 2.4 million illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election. This theory has been debunked over and over again.
I love this piece from the Washington Post on how voter ID laws do nothing to stop the actual ways that voter fraud usually takes place, and how voter fraud is so rare as to be completely insignificant to election results.
00:13:28 Was there massive voter fraud, including illegal immigrants voting, in the 2012 presidential election?
Yolanda mentioned a NY Times article detailing all the voter fraud going on in 2012, but this was all I could find on their website on that subject. Shocker: it’s an article saying widespread voter fraud does not exist and has never been proven. The article goes in-depth into how the organizations pushing this theory of widespread voter fraud routinely focus on minority communities. It’s a great in-depth analysis of the non-existent voter fraud problem in America, spanning states and counties, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing.
This myth of rampant voter fraud has been investigated and debunked so many times, it’s not even worth talking about anymore. I love Yolanda, and she says she doesn’t identify as a conservative - and moreover, she’s a woman of color. I don’t understand how this lie hooked her so effectively, but it did.
00:14:32 Was the Pussygate audio somehow taken out of context to make Donald Trump look bad?
Here’s the full video if you want to watch it again. I don’t get Yolanda’s argument that his statements were taken out of context. They were couched within a longer conversation that started with Trump talking about trying to fuck a married woman by taking her furniture shopping. He later saying he starts kissing women without waiting for permission - something numerous women have come forward to say he actually did to them - and then finishes with the statements that made feminists around the country cringe: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
I’ve searched and searched, and I can’t find a video or audio longer than the one I linked to above to support Yolanda’s assertion that his comments were about groupies and they were taken out of context. The worst part of all this is how his comments on that video align perfectly with what so many women have said about his unwelcome sexual advances on them.
00:15:18 Did the media give more attention to Pussygate than to the Clinton emails?
Not by my recollection - at all - but that’s just me. This article from Media Matters goes much further, saying journalists across the board were irresponsible in their coverage of the election, giving way too much attention to Clinton’s emails and not enough to Trump’s obvious conflicts of interest. They focused on “scandals” surrounding the Clinton Foundation but barely touched on the actual scandals surrounding Trump University and the Trump Foundation. From my perspective, the Clinton emails were all I heard about leading up to the election.
I can’t find any of the statistics Yolanda said that prove the Clinton emails were barely covered by the media. I did find this Harvard study that found that both candidates were portrayed negatively by the media the majority of the time, with Hillary Clinton receiving more negative coverage than Trump throughout the entire campaign. Trump also received an average of 15% more press coverage than Clinton did.
00:16:57 Who is Alex Jones and why does he get a “bad rap”?
Yolanda speaks very highly of Alex Jones and his ability to put out information that is completely true and well-sourced. So who is Alex Jones? He’s a famous far-right radio host of The Alex Jones Show, he runs the website Infowars, and he is widely regarded as a right-wing conspiracy theorist. He’s notorious for claiming that the Sandy Hook school shooting was fake - tell that to the parents of the dead children. He also claimed 9/11 was an inside job on the day of the attacks.
He was responsible for widely publicizing the incredibly outlandish Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chairman John Podesta were running a child sex trafficking ring out of the nonexistent basement of a Washington, DC, pizza parlor called Comet Ping Pong. The story was so fervently believed by his audience that on December 4, 2016, a North Carolina man traveled to DC, entered the pizza parlor in question and fired an AR-15 rifle in an attempt to "self-investigate" the baseless viral story, later pleading guilty to criminal charges.
Alex Jones was forced to publicly apologize for promoting PIzzagate, in a rare moment of accepting responsibility for how dangerous his conspiracy theories can be when taken seriously by his audience. (There's speculation he only did it to avoid a lawsuit.)
Rolling Stone published a long profile on him, with the sub-heading, “The most paranoid man in America is trying to overthrow the ‘global Stasi Borg state,’ one conspiracy theory at a time.”
In a custody hearing for his three children, Jones’s own lawyer argued that he was just playing a character - that he was merely a performance artist. This run-down of the weirdest moments in the custody trial does a great job of showing why the jury decided to take full custody of the kids away from Jones.
Here’s another profile from BuzzFeed. When you read about this man’s conduct in his personal and professional life, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that he’s emotionally unstable, he pushes lies, and he has no concern for the consequences unless they lead to lawsuits.
He also has no concern for facts, or for making sure the ideas he pushes in his broadcasts are backed up by them. In the above linked Buzzfeed article, a former employee of his is quoted as saying, “Sometimes he'll say he has sources and he's been told a piece of news has been confirmed but we wouldn’t have that information. Later we’d find out it was because a week earlier we had a caller on air who theorized about something and Alex repeated it as fact.”
I’ll wrap this up with a piece from the New Yorker about how Jones and Trump both seem to be susceptible to outlandish, easily debunked conspiracy theories.
00:18:57 Is RT a reliable, credible source of news?
RT (Russia Today) is an English language media outlet owned by the Russian government. The outlet claims that while they are state-funded, they maintain editorial independence from the Kremlin. However, Vladimir Putin has said on record that “it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another.”
RT is widely considered to be a Kremlin-sponsored propaganda outlet, and has frequently pushed conspiracy theories similar to the ones Alex Jones pushes. In fact, Jones has been a guest on RT many times. RationalWiki sums up what most liberals think of the outlet - that’s its a Russian propaganda machine designed to combat Western opinions of Russia as an autocracy masquerading as a democracy.
Add to this the numbers of Russian journalists who have been murdered after investigating governmental corruption or criticizing Putin, and you get an idea why many in the West have a dismal view of RT and Russia in general. Russia doesn’t have freedom of the press the way we do, and the people are fed whatever the Russian government wants them to believe. It’s a very effective strategy, and one they’ve been using to influence the populations of other countries - including our own, as evidenced by the Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
00:20:12 Who are Mark Dice and Gary Franchi?
Mark Dice is a Christian far right conspiracy theorist with a popular YouTube channel. He’s passionately homophobic and believes the Illuminati are pushing humanity toward a “New World Order.” He also thinks that all non-Christians are basically Satanists, and he agrees with Alex Jones that 9/11 was an inside job. Here’s a quote from his book, The Resistance Manifesto:
“Satanic homosexuals and the recruitment of homosexual behavior and the novelty of it are dangerous poisons that have been spreading. The antidote is the Word, which is mocked by many sick with the toxicity of homosexuality and blind by the denial of their illness. The celebration of homosexuality and other forms of perverted sexual behavior is so reprehensible that it often defies the conceptual framework of understanding just how far-reaching their effects are.”
So that’s Mark Dice.
Gary Franchi is a right-wing Zionist who founded The Next News Network. I can’t really find much on him, but MediaFactCheck.org rated his reporting as extremely biased to the right, and “mixed” as far as factual reporting.
For example, in this video he claims that a doctor has confirmed that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s disease. That story has been proven false, and the doctor in question, Ted Noel, had never examined Mrs. Clinton. He even provides the following disclaimer, “I am a medical doctor with 36 years of experience, but I am not Hillary Clinton’s treating physician, so I can’t claim that what I’m about to tell you is a conclusive diagnosis.”
00:21:52 How many actual cases of voter fraud have there been?
As if we haven’t belabored this point enough. According to the Washington Post, there have been four proven cases of voter fraud in 2016, not two, as I stated. They also did an extensive study to see if there was anything to back up Trump’s claims and found zilch, zero, nada, nothing.
00:22:22 What happened with voter fraud in Broward County, Florida?
There were widespread rumors on conservative websites of voter fraud being uncovered in Broward County, Florida, because a temp worker said she witnessed workers filling out a large number of blank ballots. An investigation was conducted and found that what she saw was actually just Board of Elections officials filling out absentee ballots for overseas military service members. (Scroll down to #3 in the link, although the other points are great, too. The first one debunks what Yolanda says later in the interview about Obama encouraging illegal immigrants to vote.)
00:22:31 Is Judicial Watch a credible source for news and information?
Judicial Watch says they are “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation.” I’m a little confused as to how you can be “conservative” and “non-partisan” at the same time, but that’s what they say. They have done extensive reporting on the “voter fraud crisis,” but there is, again, no solid evidence proving any of their claims.
Judicial Watch’s primary method of obtaining information is by filing lawsuits citing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is a law allowing people to access information from the government. Since its formation in 1994, the group has filed numerous lawsuits against everyone from Bill Clinton to Dick Cheney to Barack Obama to Hillary Clinotn. They were heavily involved in pushing the narrative of the Clinton email scandal, and as of October 2016, they had over 20 open lawsuits involving Hillary Clinton.
And to give you an idea of the guy who founded Judicial Watch, lawyer Larry Klayman, here’s a heartwarming story about how he sued his own mother for $50,000 that he spent on nurses for her mother - his grandmother - when she was sick and dying. From reading that entire article, it seems clear to me that Mr. Klayman is not okay. I would use the word “unhinged.” He chose his successor, Tom Fitton, when he decided to leave the organization in 2003 to run for Senate. Then he sued Fitton in 2006 to try to regain control of Judicial Watch, an effort which ultimately failed.
00:23:30 Did Obama urge illegal immigrants to vote?
No, of course not. This is an example of video editing designed to change the meaning of Obama’s words in order to support the far right’s obsession with discrediting and delegitimizing him.
Here’s the real story. On November 3, 2016, President Obama sat down with actress Gina Rodriguez to discuss issues facing young Latino voters. The video interview was edited by right-wing pundits to make it seem as if Obama did, in fact, urge illegal immigrants to vote. However, in the full version of the interview, Obama is actually urging Latino citizens to vote. Both versions of the video can be seen here, along with Snopes’s rating of this claim as FALSE.
For the record, here are President’s Obama’s full, actual statements in the video:
"First of all, when you vote, you are a citizen yourself. And there is not a situation where the voting rolls somehow are transferred over and people start investigating, et cetera. The sanctity of the vote is strictly confidential in terms of who you voted for.
"If you have a family member who maybe is undocumented, then you have an even greater reason to vote … People are discouraged from voting, and part of what is important for Latino citizens is to make your voice heard, because you're not just speaking for yourself. You're speaking for family members, friends, classmates of yours in school who may not have a voice. Who can't legally vote. But they're counting on you to make sure that you have the courage to make your voice heard.”
00:28:54 What do reporters have to say about how difficult it’s been covering Donald Trump while preserving journalistic integrity?
Trump constants attack on the press have made it really difficult for reporters to know how to report on him, and reporters are more determined than ever to make sure they get their facts straight as a result. This NPR interview with reporters from the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Associated Press sums it up nicely.
00:32:00 What is this stuff about Obama’s “birth certificate being a fraud,” and did Hillary Clinton start this rumor?
Yolanda sent me numerous videos that supposedly prove that Obama forged his birth certificate, and that's he's not really American.
The Birther Movement, as it is commonly called, has been debunked over and over again, yet somehow it still hangs on. Trump perpetuated this false claim for years and even tried blaming Hillary Clinton as the person who started the rumor back in 2008, which was proven to be false. (In actuality, the rumors were started back in 2004 by an Illinois politician named Andy Martin, but Trump was largely responsible for bringing the conspiracy theory to the national stage.)
This is my favorite line from Politifact's analysis of this insane claim, with their own links included:
“PolitiFact and our friends at FactCheck.org and the Washington Post Fact-Checker have debunked this zombie claim multiple times."
After Obama released his long form birth certificate from Hawaii, there were still skeptics alleging it was forged. During his presidential campaign, Trump admitted that Obama was, in fact, an American citizen, without offering an apology or explanation.
00:40:43 Does a presidential candidate have to release their tax returns?
No, they don’t have to, but it has been an American tradition for the last forty years. The only other major party candidate besides Trump that did not release his tax returns during their campaign was General Ford in 1976. In Trump’s case, a look at his tax returns would have given the American people a chance to see exactly how much potential for corruption and the compromising of our national security exists within his current business dealings in foreign countries. Without seeing the returns, we can’t know. It’s bad for optics, and a majority of Americans wish he would release them already.
00:43:03 Was the Clinton Foundation set up as a kind of loophole to allow the Clintons to take money from countries the US doesn’t have good relationships with?
It is true that the Clinton Foundation has received millions of dollars in donations from countries that are known for the mistreatment of women and the LGBTQ community. Saudi Arabia donated somewhere between $10 to $25 million to the Foundation in 2009, before Clinton became Secretary of State. There were no Saudi donations while she was Secretary of State.
The Clinton Foundation did receive $1 million from Qatar while Clinton was Secretary of State. This raised a red flag, because prior to Clinton’s appointment, she signed an ethics agreement promising to notify the State Department of any donations made by foreign governments in order to remain transparent from wrongdoings. The Foundation received at least eight new or increased donations that were not reported to the State Department. While there were many accusations that the donations the Clinton Foundation received were being traded for favors from Clinton herself, there have been no examples of Clinton ever trading a favor for a donation. There have merely been people and entities who have tried to get favors…and been turned down.
And as I wrote in Episode 1’s show notes, the Clintons are not paid for their work with the Foundation, and 80-90% of the money the Foundation receives is sent to pay for its charitable programs, garnering them an A rating from Charity Watch.
The Trump Foundation, on the other hand, has publicly admitted to self-dealing, meaning they spent Foundation funds on personal and business expenditures, including two paintings of himself, a football helmet signed by Tim Tebow, and legal expenses for his for-profit business. Charity Watch can’t even rate them, because they are set up as a private foundation, not a public charity. And Charity Navigator has issued them a Moderate Concern CN Advisory, due to the mounting evidence of misuse of Foundation funds.
Here is a detailed comparison of the two Foundations from NPR, if you’re interested in going in-depth. To make a long story short, the Clinton Foundation actually does charitable work and the Trump Foundation is super fucking sketchy on a lot of levels. But don’t take my word for it - read that article.
00:45:47 What lawsuit is Yolanda referring to involving Trump and an American flag?
First of all, what she’s bringing up here has nothing to do with what I was saying immediately before about the Clinton Foundation versus the Trump Foundation. The flagpole thing is completely unrelated to the Trump Foundation, but here’s the story anyway.
In 2006, Trump placed an oversized American flag on top of an 80-foot pole on the front lawn of his Mar-a-Lago resort, without getting the proper permits, in direct violation of Palm Beach ordinances. The town responded by applying a $250 fine for every day the pole remained in place, and Trump used that to paint the town council as unpatriotic. Trump then filed a $25 million lawsuit against them, saying they were limiting his freedom of speech. Eventually, Trump dropped the lawsuit, the fines were waived, and he got to keep his giant flag pole.
Here are all the details concerning Yolanda’s second example, Trump University. A federal judge approved a $25 million lawsuit against Trump from former students of the university. Again, how much news coverage these stories received is a matter of opinion.
00:46:00 What happened with Trump University?
Even conservative media outlet The National Review has labeled Trump University as “a massive scam” - because it was. There are multiple personal accounts of how people were cheated out of thousands of dollars, and received virtually nothing for their investment. Read this piece from the New Yorker for an in-depth review of everything that went down with the utterly fraudulent Trump U. (Which, PS, was not a university at all.)
Donald Trump swore he’d never settle this case, insisting he was sure to win, but then he totally settled, paying out $25 million.
00:46:26 Did Trump buy a painting of himself with Trump Foundation money?
Yes. As written earlier in these notes, he’s actually purchased two paintings of himself with Foundation money, one in 2007 for $20,000, and one in 2014 for $10,000.
00:46:43 Did Chelsea Clinton run an investigation into the Clinton Foundation?
Yes. Back in 2011, Chelsea Clinton hired New York law firm, Simpson Thacher, to conduct an internal audit of the Clinton Foundation focusing on “potential conflicts of interest.” In calling for the audit, Chelsea Clinton was trying “to put an end to practices that blurred the line between the foundation, governments and a consulting firm called Teneo that paid Bill Clinton.”
From what I can gather - and this is the only story I can find on this issue - Chelsea Clinton seemed to be trying to make sure operations within the Clinton Foundation were corruption-free, and she met with a lot of resistance from within the organization.
Lastly, the FBI actually conducted an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, and found no evidence of wrongdoing and decided not to pursue the matter further.
00:49:46 Did a US soldier go to jail over a selfie?
Not exactly. Yolanda seems to be confusing a few stories here.
Kristian Saucier, a 10-year Navy veteran, used his personal cellphone to take pictures of classified engineering spaces, instruments, and equipment on a nuclear submarine. In a bizarre turn of events, Saucier’s cellphone was found on top of a dumpster by a landfill supervisor. The supervisor discovered the photos, and showed them to a friend who was in the Navy. This friend then contacted the Naval Criminal Investigative Services.
The photos Saucier took were extremely detailed and showed every major component of the submarine’s controls and equipment, including the design of its nuclear components and its location at the time of the photograph being taken. To make matters worse, when Saucier found out he was being investigated, he immediately destroyed a laptop, camera, and memory card that were in his possession.
While there is no evidence the photos were disseminated (which means these photos were not sent home to Saucier’s wife and child, as Yolanda said), the high level of detail in them was unusual, and the destruction of evidence looked really bad for Saucier. This resulted in Federal prosecutors seeking much heavier sentencing than in two other cases of soldiers taking selfies in the same submarine. (In those cases, the soldiers received fines in the form of docked pay, and one was demoted. Neither was sent to jail over it.)
Saucier eventually pled guilty to unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information. In an attempt to lighten his sentence, Saucier’s lawyers tried to compare his photos to Clinton’s use of her private email server. Federal prosecutors rejected their comparison, saying, "The defendant is grasping at highly imaginative and speculative straws in trying to...draw a comparison to the matter of Sec. Hilary Clinton based upon virtually no understanding and knowledge of the facts involved, the information at issue, not to mention any issues if [sic] intent and knowledge.”
In the end, Saucier’s sentencing was pretty light - only one year in jail and a $100 fine.
00:50:45 Was a general sent to jail for sending a classified email?
Again, it seems like Yolanda is mixing up some stories here.
In 2016, an Air Force general was fired for sending sexually inappropriate emails to a lower-ranking female officer, but that had nothing to do with the mishandling of classified information or national security.
I think this might be the story she’s actually referring to: in 2012, Major Jason Brezler of the Marine Corps sent an email to his colleagues in Afghanistan from his Yahoo account to warn them about a corrupt local police officer. He then reported himself for improperly sending a classified email, and in 2013, a Marine Corps board of inquiry concluded that Brezler mishandled classified information and recommended he be honorably discharged.
However, as of December 2016, Brezler had not been discharged from the Marines, after winning a lawsuit he filed against the Marine Corps. He definitely has not gone to jail for it.
When this story broke, comparisons between Brezler and Clinton erupted like wildfire, but according to Snopes, the comparisons are “based on inaccuracies.”
00:51:24 Explain the Clinton email scandal to me again?
I covered this in Episode 1’s show notes, but here’s the FactCheck.org article I referenced for an in-depth analysis of the whole email debacle.
00:52:11 Did Colin Powell also send emails from a private server, and did he get in trouble for it?
Colin Powell didn’t use a private server, but he did use a personal email account. He openly admits to using his personal account to send emails and stands behind his decisions while he was Secretary of State. He did not receive anywhere near the same scrutiny as Clinton, especially in the public eye, reflecting what many on the left see as an untenable double standard.
This wonderfully foul-mouthed Vox analysis of the situation sums up my feelings on it pretty well, and debunks most of the myths concerning the supposed “email scandal.”
00:53:29 Did Hillary Clinton endanger the lives of the Americans murdered in the Benghazi attack by providing their locations in leaked emails?
No. The emails in question were extremely vague and happened a full 18 months before the Benghazi attacks, before Chris Stevens was even the ambassador to Libya. They did discuss his location in vague terms, but didn’t reveal much more than what was already available publicly.
Furthermore, Ambassador Chris Stevens’s sister, Anne Stevens, went public during the Benghazi investigation, pleading with the public not to blame Hillary Clinton for his death. In her interview with the New Yorker, she said, “She has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.”
Lastly, Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the attacks, endured eleven hours of questioning from the Select Committee on Benghazi (not eight hours as I said in the interview), and was ultimately found innocent of any culpability or wrongdoing worth prosecuting in regards to the Benghazi attacks.
00:53:49 Were the victims of the Benghazi attacked raped, tortured, and their genitals cut off?
This is so unverified, it’s unbelievable how many people are repeating it as confirmed fact. The attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi was so chaotic that it’s almost impossible to figure out what really happened, but there is no proof that anyone was raped or tortured, or that any corpses were paraded through the streets, as Yolanda claimed. Snopes has listed this claim as “Undetermined,” and cites many conflicting reports about the events of that horrific evening, including a report that Chris Stevens arrived alive at a hospital but died shortly after due to extreme smoke inhalation. There were also reports that Libyans were trying to save his life by running into the burning consulate to retrieve him. And a Lebanese news report saying that the Agency France Presse had reported that the victims were raped before being killed was immediately repudiated by the Agency France Presse, which released a statement saying, “Concerning your query on the report published by a Lebanese website according to which ambassador Stevens was sodomized. That report falsely quoted our news agency and has no truth whatsover to it. AFP promptly sent a strongly worded complaint to that website and they removed the report and published a denial, saying that AFP did not report such a thing.”
Also, the Snopes article begins with a letter supposedly written by a cousin of Chris Stevens, a man named Charles Roots, which was later denounced as a fake by Charles Roots himself. Roots is not, in fact, related to Chris Stevens, and said in a public statement that he is “disgusted” that the letter was attributed to him.
01:00:39 Does Trump’s travel ban make America more secure?
Not according to national security and foreign policy experts. In fact, they argue that the travel ban makes us less secure, by amplifying the idea that the US is anti-Muslim.
According to the NY Times, “Since Sept. 11, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.”
01:02:25 Did Trump compromise national security by discussing a North Korean missile test in front of Mar-a-Lago guests?
Back in February 2017, in plain view and within earshot of resort guests and staff while having dinner on the terrace at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Trump and the Prime Minster of Japan, Shinzō Abe, reviewed documents and openly discussed their response to North Korea’s most recent missile test. A guest took photos and posted them on Facebook along with a caption about the incident.
The White House claims that only logistics concerning the two leaders’ upcoming press conference about the incident were discussed at the dinner, and that Trump had been briefed on the missile test in a secure location beforehand. But CNN and the Guardian both reported that the call about the missile test came in during Trump and Abe’s first course at dinner, contradicting the White House’s claim that Trump had already been briefed. Business Insider also wrote a story detailing how bad this incident was for national security.
01:03:07 Have Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and Stephen Miller repeatedly been caught in lies?
Yes, and for the most part, they’ve been easily proven to be lies. The list is long, so here just a few of Spicer's and a handful of Conway's to start you off down a really depressing rabbithole. And the Washington Post gave Stephen Miller “a bushel of PInnochios” for his claims about voter fraud.
01:03:16 Did Kellyanne Conway illegally encourage people to purchase items from Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on national television?
01:03:51 What the hell happened with Michael Flynn and Russia?
Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, was appointed by Trump as National Security Advisor. Only 24 days later, he was forced to resign after it was revealed that he communicated with Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador to the US, about US sanctions against Russia. (For the record, that’s the shortest term of any national security advisor ever.) Flynn withheld his conversations with Kisylak from Vice President Mike Pence. However, Trump knew that Flynn had potentially been compromised for eighteen days prior to Flynn’s resignation, thanks to a warning from then acting attorney general Sally Yates - a warning which yielded no response from the White House until the story was made public nearly three weeks later.
There are several entities currently investigating the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials or other Russian actors. Flynn is a key witness, but he is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for this testimony. Trump is on record criticizing Hillary Clinton aides for requesting immunity, which makes his support of Flynn's request particularly hypocritical.
01:08:13 Did people record videos of the incident with Trump and Abe discussing North Korea’s missile test outside during dinner at Mar-a-Lago?
No, there are no videos that I know of - I got this wrong. There is, however, a photograph of Trump and Abe surrounded by aides, reading sensitive documents by the light of cellphone screens. The photo was published to Facebook by the guy who took it, and then later taken down. You can still see it in the article I linked to earlier in these notes from the Washington Post.
01:09:12 Did Trump create jobs and lower taxes in his first three weeks in office?
Trump has taken credit for a lot of job growth, but those claims are unsubstantiated, and his tax plan wasn’t even close to being introduced, let alone implemented, at the time of this interview.
01:09:59 Have most of our terrorists in the US been home-grown?