Fact Check: Misleading Claims on Guns, Benghazi and More at RNC Day 2 | NBC Connecticut
Decision 2016

Decision 2016

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Fact Check: Misleading Claims on Guns, Benghazi and More at RNC Day 2

The speakers went too far in their claims on guns, Benghazi, coal jobs, Keystone and more.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    John Moore/Getty Images
    Donald Trump Jr. delivers a speech on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

    FactCheck.org is a non-partisan non-profit organization that will hold candidates and key figures accountable during the 2016 presidential campaign. FactCheck.org will check facts of of speeches, advertisements and more for NBC.

    CLEVELAND — The theme of the second night of the Republican convention was “Make America Work Again,” but the false and misleading claims we flagged touched on topics beyond the economy and jobs:

    • Donald Trump Jr. distorted Clinton’s gun control proposal, claiming, as his father did, that she wants to “take away Americans’ guns.” Clinton’s gun control proposal doesn’t call for taking away guns.
    • Two speakers claimed that Clinton paid women less than men in her Senate office. That’s true if one includes only workers who worked for Clinton full-time for a full year, but it’s not accurate if including workers who worked part of the year or took unpaid leaves of absences.
    • Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey both mentioned Clinton’s “what difference does it make” quote on Benghazi, but left out the context of that remark. Clinton didn’t say that the loss of life in Benghazi didn’t make a difference.
    • Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia took Clinton’s words on coal-mining jobs out of context. Capito said Clinton “promised to devastate communities and families across coal country.” But Clinton said she wants to bring renewable energy jobs to coal country to replace lost coal jobs.
    • Capito used a one-sided report and back-of-the-envelope calculation to claim that “the burden of government regulations in this country amounts to $15,000 a household.” And she exaggerated the number of coal mining jobs that have been lost since 2011, putting the figure at 60,000, when it’s 36,700.
    • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrongly said that Clinton was for the Keystone XL pipeline before she was against it. She did not take a position until she opposed the pipeline in 2015.
    • Capito also said the Obama “economic agenda” has led to “the lowest workforce participation in decades,” but the rate began its decline in the late 1990s and is due mainly to baby boomers retiring and other demographic factors. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, is below the historical norm.
    • Sen. Jeff Sessions claimed that “respect for America has fallen,” but the U.S. is viewed more favorably in many countries now than it was before President Obama took office.
    • Donald Trump Jr. also wrongly said that his father “funded his entire primary run out of his own pocket.” Trump provided about 73 percent of the funding, but not all of it.

    Note to Readers

    Our managing editor, Lori Robertson, is on the scene in Cleveland. This story was written with the help of the entire staff, based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Next week, we will dispatch our staffers in Philadelphia for the Democratic convention. We intend to vet the major speeches at both conventions for factual accuracy, applying the same standards to both.

    Analysis

    Distorting Clinton’s Gun Stance

    Trump Booed Leaving New York Times

    [NATL] Trump Booed Leaving New York Times
    President Elect Donald Trump is booed as he walks through the lobby of The New York Times Building after a 75-minute meeting with Times journalists. The lobby of the Times building is open to the public, and a large crowd had gathered by the time he departed. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016)

    Donald Trump Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps in distorting the facts on Clinton’s gun control proposals. He claimed that Clinton would “take away Americans’ guns,” but she doesn’t propose a ban on all guns or taking away guns.

    Trump Jr.: She says she’ll issue executive orders to take away Americans’ guns. She wants to appoint judges that will abolish the Second Amendment.

    Trump’s language was similar to that of his father, who has claimed that “Clinton wants to take your guns away and she wants to abolish the Second Amendment.” As we’ve written before, her gun control proposal calls for restrictions, such as a ban on semi-automatic “assault weapons” and expanded background checks, but she doesn’t propose taking away guns.

    Her gun violence prevention proposal, which is on her campaign website, calls for expanding background checks to some private sales online and at gun shows, changing the federal law that allows gun buyers to purchase a gun if a background check remains incomplete after three days, and reinstating a ban on certain semi-automatic “assault weapons” that expired in 2004. That law didn’t ban any guns in circulation before it took effect.

    Trump Takes Meetings at His New Jersey Golf Club

    [NATL] Trump Takes Meetings at His New Jersey Golf Club
    President-elect Trump interviewed more than a dozen candidates for his administration at his New Jersey golf club over the weekend, including Mitt Romney, Rudy Guliani, Chris Christie and Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, who has been tough on immigration, and others. (Published Monday, Nov. 21, 2016)

    As for “abolish[ing] the Second Amendment,” that claim is likely based on Clinton’s comment in a 2015 speech that “the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, and I am going to make that case every chance I get.” But that comment was about a specific case, the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that found the handgun ban in Washington, D.C., unconstitutional. The conservative Washington Free Beaconwrote that Clinton “appeared to be criticizing” that ruling, and her campaign confirmed to us that she was referring to that case.

    Campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin said Clinton “believes Heller was wrongly decided in that cities and states should have the power to craft common sense laws to keep their residents safe.”

    In her own words, in April, Clinton talked about protecting the gun rights of lawful gun owners: “There is a Second Amendment, there are constitutional rights. We aren’t interested in taking away guns of lawful, responsible gun owners.”

    Gender Pay in Clinton’s Senate Office

    Two featured speakers at the convention claimed that Clinton paid women less than men in her Senate office. That’s true if one includes only workers who worked for Clinton full-time for a full year, but it’s not accurate if one also includes workers who only worked part of the year, or who took brief unpaid leaves of absences.

    Annual salary data provided to us by the Clinton campaign show median salaries for men and women in Clinton’s office were virtually identical if one included employees who only worked part of the year.

    The issue of pay disparity in Clinton’s Senate office was first raised at the convention by Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

    Day: She [Clinton] repeatedly plays the gender card. In fact, she boasts, “Deal me in.” Well Mrs. Clinton, consider yourself dealt in. Because as a senator you paid women less than the men in your office.

    Trump Holds Series of Meetings With Potential Cabinet Candidates

    [NATL]Trump Holds Series of Meetings With Potential Cabinet Candidates
    President-elect Donald Trump is holding a series of meetings all weekend with potential candidates at his New Jersey golf course as he continues to mull over dozens of positions in his upcoming administration. NBC's Chris Pollone reports. (Published Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016)

    Later in the night, Kimberlin Brown, an actress best known for her roles on two soap operas, said that in “then Senator Clinton’s office … men have been paid better than women.”

    We took an in-depth look at this issue back in April 2015 when RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made a similar claim. Those attacking Clinton base their claims of gender pay disparity on a report by the Washington Free Beacon of publicly available expense reports submitted biannually to the secretary of the Senate. Looking at median salaries among full-time, year-round employees, the Free Beacon concluded that women working in Clinton’s Senate office were paid 72 cents for each dollar paid to men.

    The Clinton campaign provided FactCheck.org a list of the names, titles and annual salaries of every full-time person employed in Clinton’s Senate office between 2002 and 2008. Those data show the median salary for men and women to be the same at $40,000. The data also show Clinton hired roughly twice as many women as men.

    The Clinton list of salaries included full-time workers who may have worked only part of the year, or who took brief unpaid leaves of absence. Experts told us that Clinton’s methodology was reasonable, because Senate staffers often toggle between Senate and campaign work. But experts also told us the Free Beacon methodology was legitimate, too.

    Clinton Reflects on Defeat: 'Never, Ever Give Up'

    [NATL] Clinton Reflects on Defeat: 'Never, Ever Give Up'
    Hillary Clinton is reflecting on her devastating defeat, acknowledging the difficulty of her loss for her supporters and urging them to persevere through the Donald Trump era. She is encouraging her backers to "never, ever give up."

    Making her first public appearance Wednesday evening since her emotional concession speech a week earlier, Clinton said: "It's up to each and every one of us to keep working to make America better and stronger and fairer." (Published Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016)

    “There are many different ways to measure these things and you will get slightly different answers,” Eileen Patten, a research analyst at the Pew Research Center, told us last year. “It’s not that either data set is flawed. They just show different things.”

    Context Makes a Difference

    Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson led his speech with an oft-used quote from Hillary Clinton on the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks, but he left out the full context.

    Johnson: “What difference, at this point, does it make?” I am the guy that got under her skin and provoked that infamous response from Hillary Clinton by asking a pretty simple question: “Why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call the survivors?”

    Former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey was more egregious in misrepresenting Clinton’s quote, saying: “So I guess about her emails we’re soon gonna hear the same infamous question that we heard about the death of four Americans in Benghazi, what difference at this point does it make?” Clinton didn’t say that the deaths didn’t make a difference.

    Johnson’s initial question in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Jan. 23, 2013, was about ascertaining whether the attack on the diplomatic facilities in Benghazi started “spontaneously” in response to an anti-Muslim video on the internet, as the Obama administration initially said, or whether it was a terrorist attack, which the administration later acknowledged. (See our latest “Benghazi Timeline” story for more on that.)

    Johnson asked: “But, Madame Secretary, do you disagree with me that a simple phone call to those evacuees to determine what happened wouldn’t have ascertained immediately that there was no protest? That was a piece of information that could have been easily, easily obtained?”

    Clinton said she didn’t want to “interfere” with the FBI or State Department investigations. After some back-and-forth, she made the “what difference does it make” comment, saying, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

    WATCH: Obama Welcomes Trump to the White House

    [NATL] WATCH: Obama Welcomes Trump to the White House
    President Barack Obama welcomed President-elect Donald Trump to the White House Thursday for a private meeting in the Oval Office. After spending roughly 90 minutes together the pair made a brief statement to reporters. Obama said he was "encouraged" by the wide-ranging conversation the pair had, adding that it's important "we call come together" to face the challenges America faces. Trump added that he "very much looks forward" to dealing with President Obama in the future and will rely on his "counsel" (Published Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016)

    Republicans, like Mukasey, have portrayed the remarks as being uncaring toward the lives lost that night. Johnson himself went on to describe in his speech several victims of terrorists attacks, saying “it made a difference” to them. But Clinton’s full remarks indicate she was concerned about the lives lost.

    Here’s the fuller exchange between Johnson and Clinton:

    Johnson: But, Madame Secretary, do you disagree with me that a simple phone call to those evacuees to determine what happened wouldn’t have ascertained immediately that there was no protest? I mean, that was a piece of information that could have been easily, easily obtained?

    Clinton: But, Senator, again—

    Johnson: Within hours, if not days?

    Clinton: Senator, you know, when you’re in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on, number one—

    Johnson: I realize that’s a good excuse.

    Clinton: Well, no, it’s the fact. Number two, I would recommend highly you read both what the ARB said about it and the classified ARB because, even today, there are questions being raised. Now, we have no doubt they were terrorists, they were militants, they attacked us, they killed our people. But what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing is still unknown —

    Johnson: No, again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that — an assault sprang out of that — and that was easily ascertained that that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn’t know that.

    Clinton: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process, I understand, going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear, it is, from my perspective, less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.

    Targeting Coal Miners?

    Obama: ‘We Are All on One Team’

    [NATL] Obama: ‘We Are All on One Team’
    President Barack Obama, addressing the nation on Nov. 9, urged the country to come together after a divisive election season. “We are all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We are not Democrats first. We are not Republicans first,” Obama said. “We are Americans first. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016)

    Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia took Clinton’s words on coal-mining jobs out of context. Sullivan claimed that Clinton “promised” to “target” coal miners and oil drillers for “extinction.” Capito said Clinton “promised to devastate communities and families across coal country.”

    Clinton has said she wants to “move away from coal,” but added, “we don’t want to forget those people.” She promised to bring renewable energy jobs to coal country to replace lost coal jobs.

    Sullivan: We will put coal miners and oil drillers back to work, not target them for extinction as Hillary has promised.

    Capito: Hillary Clinton has already promised to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. She wants to put thousands more Americans out of work. She has promised to devastate communities and families across coal country.

    Hillary Clinton: 'I Still Believe in America'

    [NATL-NY] Hillary Clinton: 'I Still Believe in America'
    Hillary Clinton said she felt "pride and gratitude" for her campaign on Wednesday morning, hours after her shocking defeat at the hands of Donald Trump. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016)

    Sullivan and Capito were referring to Clinton’s much-criticized comments at a CNN town hall forum in March. Journalist Roland Martin asked Clinton to make her case for why “poor whites who live in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama” should vote for her and support her economic policies.

    Her critics focused on a part of her response in which she said, “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” But she said more than that. Sullivan and Capito ignore her promise to create new jobs for communities hurt by the shift away from coal.

    Clinton, March 13: Look, we have serious economic problems in many parts of our country. And Roland is absolutely right. Instead of dividing people the way Donald Trump does, let’s reunite around policies that will bring jobs and opportunities to all these underserved poor communities.

    So for example, I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right, Tim?

    And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

    Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.

    Clinton later apologized for her remark about putting coal miners out of work, explaining “what I said was totally out of context from what I meant.” As we wrote, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife in Kentucky and elaborated on her point that renewable energy can create jobs in fossil fuel states (although he exaggerated the amount of electricity that Texas gets from wind energy).

    Regulation Exaggeration

    Capito used a one-sided report to claim that “the burden of government regulations in this country amounts to $15,000 a household.” The figure, oft-cited in conservative circles, is based on a conservative group’s admitted “back-of-the-envelope” calculation of estimated regulatory costs that does not include any potential savings.

    Capito: Right now, the burden of government regulations in this country amounts to $15,000 a household. So let me ask you … a couple of questions — are you ready? Alright. Is burdening every household in America with a cost of $15,000 — worth more applause lines at campaign rallies? Is burdening every household in America with a cost of $15,000 — worth more campaign cash? Is burdening every household in America with a cost of $15,000 — worth a few more one-liners?

    As we wrote in February 2015, the figure cited by Capito comes from an admitted “back-of-the-envelope” calculation from a report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a staunch opponent of government over-regulation. In the report, “Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State,” author Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. calculates the 2013 cost of federal regulatory compliance at nearly $1.9 trillion. To arrive at the cost-per-family figure, that $1.9 trillion was simply divided by the number of American households. By that math, Crews argues, “each U.S. household ‘pays’ $14,974 annually in a hidden regulatory tax.”

    The $1.9 trillion figure is based on the Office of Management and Budget’s annual reports to Congress on the benefits and costs of federal regulation. The problem is that the Competitive Enterprise report focused on the “costs” and ignored the “benefits” listed in those reports. The OMB typically makes the case that benefits exceed costs. For example, the White House argued in 2012 that regulations that have short-term costs often result in long-term savings. “In areas that include food and workplace safety, clean air, fuel economy, energy efficiency, and investor protection, well-designed regulations are preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses and accidents — and saving billions of dollars,” the report states.

    While one can take issue with the OMB’s cost-benefit analyses, to highlight the costs while ignoring benefits tells only half the story.

    Capito also exaggerated when she claimed that Obama’s “recklessness” had deprived more than 60,000 coal workers of their jobs since 2011.

    Capito: His recklessness has cost more than 60,000 — 60,000 — coal workers their jobs since 2011.

    To be sure, there has been a 41 percent decline in coal mining jobs since the end of 2011, and the administration’s policies favoring cleaner sources of energy and discouraging the burning of coal have played a role. But so have competing energy sources, such as natural gas, and technology, and according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of coal mining jobs lost during that period is under 36,700 — well below the figure Capito cited.

    Clinton’s Position on Keystone

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Hillary Clinton backed the Keystone XL pipeline before she came out against it. She said in 2010 that the administration was “inclined” to support the project, but that it was still under review. Clinton never took an official position until 2015, when she opposed it.

    McConnell: Hillary has changed her position on so many times, it’s impossible to tell where the conviction ends and the ambition begins. … Once a backer of the Keystone pipeline, last year she opposed it.

    The claim that Clinton backed the Keystone XL pipeline is based on an answer she gave during a community forum at the Commonwealth Club in 2010.

    Clinton was asked about the Alberta Clipper, a different pipeline project. But the answer she gave was about the Keystone XL pipeline, which would be built by TransCanada Corp. and would run 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

    At the time, Clinton said that the administration was “inclined” to approve the Keystone proposal, but she stopped short of fully embracing it, saying that “a final decision” had not been made because the administration had not completed its analysis.

    Question, Oct. 15, 2010: Another international issue that you signed in on last year was the Alberta Clipper, a pipeline from Alberta that brings tar sands, oil sands directly into Wisconsin to the U.S. Midwest. This is some of the dirtiest fuel in the world. And how can the U.S. be saying climate change is a priority when we’re mainlining some of the dirtiest fuel that exists. (Applause.)

    Clinton: Well, there hasn’t been a final decision made. It is —

    Question: Are you willing to reconsider it?

    Clinton: Probably not. (Laughter.) And we — but we haven’t finish all of the analysis. So as I say, we’ve not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons — going back to one of your original questions — we’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada. And until we can get our act together as a country and figure out that clean, renewable energy is in both our economic interests and the interests of our planet — (applause) — I mean, I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone how deeply disappointed the president and I are about our inability to get the kind of legislation through the Senate that the United States was seeking.

    For years after those comments, Clinton declined to publicly take a position on the Keystone pipeline until September 2015, during a campaign event in Iowa, when she opposed it.

    Clinton, Sept. 22, 2015: As I said, you know, I was in a unique position having been secretary of state, having started this process and not wanting to, you know, interfere with the ongoing decision making that both the president and Secretary [John] Kerry have to do in order to make whatever the final decision might be. So, I thought this would be decided by now and therefore I could tell you whether I agreed or I disagreed. But it hasn’t been decided, and I feel now I’ve got a responsibility to you and other voters who ask me about this. And I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change. And, unfortunately, from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward to deal with all the other issues. Therefore, I oppose it. And I oppose it because I don’t think, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.

    As Clinton said during the first Democratic presidential debate in October 2015: “I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone.”

    Labor Participation

    Capito also said Clinton would “double down on an [Obama] economic agenda — that’s led to the lowest workforce participation in decades.”

    But Obama’s “economic agenda” hasn’t caused the decline in the labor force participation rate, which actually started going down in the late 1990s, a full decade before he took office. Furthermore, the decline is due mainly to millions of baby boomers reaching retirement age and other demographic factors.

    Capito didn’t mention that the rate of joblessness among those who want work and are looking for it is now 4.9 percent — well below the historical norm. Meanwhile the number of job openings has more than doubled under Obama, to the highest number in the more than 15 years the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking it.

    No Respect?

    Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said that “respect for America has fallen. Crime is rising.” Neither statement is true.

    As we’ve written before, the U.S. is viewed more favorably now than it was before Obama took office in 2009. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s June 2016 update, the percentage of those with favorable views of the U.S. increased in countries such as Japan, Italy, France, Britain, Germany and China. Among the few countries in which the U.S. favorable rating has slipped is Russia, where U.S. favorability plunged to 15 percent in 2015, down 31 percentage points from 2008.

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a similar claim about crime rates in a July 11 speech in Virginia Beach. As we wrote then, the violent crime rate is lower now than it has been since 1970. The rate has been on a steady decline since it peaked at 758.2 in 1991. It was less than half that, 365.5 in 2014. (The FBI describes its data as “estimated,” and as we mentioned it comes from voluntary reports from local law enforcement agencies. The “rate” is the number of offenses per 100,000 people.)

    The murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate nationwide was 4.5 in 2014, the lowest point since at least the early 1960s, when the rate dipped as low as 4.6. (Note the numbers do not include lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)

    Trump’s Self-funding

    Donald Trump Jr. said that his father “funded his entire primary run out of his own pocket.” Trump provided most of the funding for his primary campaign, but not all of it.

    Trump Jr.: A president not beholden to special interests, foreign and domestic, and one who funded his entire primary run out of his own pocket just to prove it.

    On May 26, CNN reported that Trump had reached the required number of delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. And as of May 31, Trump’s campaign had raised nearly $65 million, according to funding records from the Federal Election Commission.

    Trump contributed $395,508 directly to his campaign and loaned it another $45.7 million. But the Trump campaign spent more than $63.2 million through the end of May, according to FEC records.

    The rest of the money the campaign spent came from individual donations from campaign contributors. And as of the end of May, the campaign had received a total of nearly $17.1 million from donors other than Trump.

    So, Trump funded roughly 73 percent of his primary campaign through contributions and loans.

    — Lori Robertson, with Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson, Robert Farley and D’Angelo Gore

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    White House Office of Management and Budget. “2014 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local, and Tribal Entities.” 2014.

    Sunstein, Cass. “Making Regulation Smarter to Save Lives and Money.” White House Blog. 10 May 2012.

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