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            "slug": "week-fact-checking-pandemic-election",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "The week in fact-checking: the pandemic election, Trump's weight",
            "entry": "<p><strong>&quot;The Week in Fact-checking&quot; compiles short summaries of our best work; the links will take you to our full reports. Want this report early and via email? <a href=\"http://www.politifact.com/sign-up\">Sign up here</a>.&nbsp;</strong></p>\n\n<p><strong>This week: </strong><em>Voting by mail in 2020 &hellip; Pelosi wrong about Trump&rsquo;s weight &hellip; Pants on Fire for Trump on voting by mail &hellip; Stacey Abrams repeats bad info on COVID-19 &hellip; Trump removes watchdogs and picks his own &hellip; The Top 10 uncertainties about the coronavirus&nbsp;</em></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">How battleground states are preparing for the pandemic election</div>\n\n<p>With the 2020 presidential election less than six months away, state and local officials are scrambling to prepare for a potentially massive increase in voting by mail.</p>\n\n<p>In 2016, about one-quarter of votes nationally were <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/19/how-are-election-officials-preparing-pandemic-elec/\">cast by mail through absentee voting</a>. This year, some state governments have already changed laws and policies to expand it.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The nitty-gritty of administering the 2020 vote, however, is left to local officials who are making their best guesses about how to prepare.</p>\n\n<p>To size up how ready the country is for a pandemic election, PolitiFact interviewed state and local officials in six states frequently cited by political handicappers as the most competitive tossups in the country: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Election officials described multiple challenges with managing an expansion of mail-in ballots &mdash; even in places where it is already common &mdash; while keeping in-person voting open and safe.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Our key findings:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&bull; Local elections officials expect a significant increase in voting by mail this fall. To prepare, they&rsquo;re buying more ballots and trying to hire more workers to count them. But they are worried about the logistical challenges and running out of money.</p>\n\n<p>&bull; Some states have already begun to change their rules to encourage mail balloting, but others are taking a wait-and-see approach.</p>\n\n<p>&bull; Keeping in-person polling sites accessible and safe presents another challenge, and some supervisors are uncertain about how many sanitizing supplies they will need.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/19/how-are-election-officials-preparing-pandemic-elec/\">Read our full story</a> for our interviews with election officials across the country.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&mdash;<em> Louis Jacobson and Amy Sherman</em></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Fact-checks of the week</div>\n\n<p><strong>Pants on Fire for Trump on Michigan voter fraud.</strong> President Donald Trump recently tweeted, &quot;Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!&quot; <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/20/donald-trump/trump-falsely-claims-michigan-sent-ballots-all-vot/\">We rated this Pants on Fire</a>! The Michigan secretary of state announced that she was sending an application for absentee ballots to registered voters, not an actual ballot. The state constitution guarantees registered voters access to an absentee ballot.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong>Nancy Pelsoi claims Trump is &quot;morbidly obese.&quot; That&#39;s False. </strong>House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN she was concerned that Trump said he was taking hydroxychloroquine. &quot;I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group,&quot; Pelosi said. &quot;He&rsquo;s morbidly obese, they say.&quot; <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/19/nancy-pelosi/no-he-not-morbidly-obese/\">We rated Pelosi&rsquo;s claim False</a>. Donald Trump does not fit the CDC&rsquo;s description of &quot;severely obese.&quot; Some have questioned official reports of both Trump&rsquo;s height and weight. But even if Trump isn&rsquo;t telling the truth about his weight, it&rsquo;s extremely unlikely he would be classified as morbidly or severely obese.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Stacey Abrams wrong on skyrocketing COVID rates. </strong>Abrams, a former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, said, &quot;Since the reopening of the state, we&rsquo;ve seen our COVID rate skyrocket by 40%.&quot; <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/15/stacey-abrams/stacey-abrams-gets-georgias-reopening-covid-19-tre/\">We rated that False</a>. In reality, the period after reopening had 12% fewer cases. Even if the policy shift did cause infections to rise, it wouldn&rsquo;t appear until several weeks later. Abrams spoke before that effect would show up in the data. She was quoting a retracted news report that was widely shared.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Use caution in wearing gloves. </strong>A Facebook post that went viral said, &quot;If you are wearing the same set of gloves all over town you are only spreading germs everywhere you go. Every door you touch, the cart, the supplies, your phone, your car door, your face, money and change. &hellip; DON&rsquo;T WEAR THE SAME GLOVES EVERYWHERE!&quot; <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/13/facebook-posts/not-better-wearing-gloves-public-coronavirus/\">We rated this statement True</a>. Infectious disease experts said gloves don&rsquo;t really protect the wearer since the coronavirus doesn&rsquo;t seep in through the skin. And they don&rsquo;t limit the disease spread since they are often worn too long or removed incorrectly. Washing hands often is the step that actually kills the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Trump has pushed out 5 inspectors general</div>\n\n<p>Since early April, Trump has taken steps to remove or replace five inspectors general from their respective offices in the intelligence community and the departments of defense, health and human services, state and transportation. Four of the changes came <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/16/trumps-slow-moving-friday-night-massacre-inspectors-general/\">on Friday nights</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Trump said that his actions are routine. But there&rsquo;s no precedent for Trump&rsquo;s rapid removals, experts told us. President Barack Obama fired one inspector general.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We are seeing right now, in real time, a true crisis in terms of the ability for there to be independent oversight and accountability within the executive branch,&quot; said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight.</p>\n\n<p>One wrinkle that&#39;s troubling, experts said, is the appointment of &quot;acting&quot; inspectors general &mdash; a move that, unlike for permanent nominations, doesn&rsquo;t require Senate confirmation.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;To me, what that says is that the president is exercising the ability to cherry pick who is conducting oversight, even in the interim,&quot; Hempowicz said.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/19/trump-has-pushed-out-5-inspectors-general-april-he/\">Read our story to learn the names of the five inspectors general</a> and what they were investigating at the time of their removal.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&mdash; <em>Bill McCarthy</em></p>\n\n<p><strong>Knowing the facts has never been more important. <a href=\"https://checkout.fundjournalism.org/memberform?org_id=politifact&amp;campaign=7011L00000108c5QAA\">Please consider donating to PolitiFact today.</a></strong></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What we&rsquo;re reading &amp; watching</div>\n\n<p>&bull; I participated recently in a YouTube discussion about &quot;Presidential Communications in a Time of Crisis,&quot; through George Washington University&rsquo;s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. You can see <a href=\"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quGYQ8a5_1U\">part 1</a>, <a href=\"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C99gP8qLqss\">part 2</a> and <a href=\"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfh4BgtVhws\">part 3</a> via YouTube. Other panelists were misinformation researcher Ethan Porter and former White House press secretaries Joe Lockhart and Ari Fleischer.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&bull; The Poynter Institute&rsquo;s senior media writer Tom Jones recently went behind the scenes at the <a href=\"https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2020/after-six-decades-cbss-face-the-nation-transforms-for-its-biggest-story-yet-and-sees-its-best-viewership-in-years/\">Sunday morning news show &quot;Face the Nation.&quot;</a> The show has retooled during the coronavirus to focus on guests that include newsmakers and scientific experts; the politics panel has been taking a break. Jones reports that the changes have taken a good show and elevated it to its best viewership in years.</p>\n\n<p>&bull;&nbsp;A story in the Washington Post recently took a wide look at how the United States has arrived at its current moment battling a pandemic. &quot;<a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/politics/government-hollowed-out-weaknesses/\">Crisis exposes how America has hollowed out its government</a>,&quot; by Dan Balz, shows how the government&rsquo;s response represents chronic weaknesses and years of underinvestment, compounded by President Trump&rsquo;s hostility to the federal bureaucracy.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">The Top 10 uncertainties about the coronavirus</div>\n\n<p>PolitiFact has been fact-checking claims about the coronavirus and COVID-19 since it first appeared. Months later, basic facts about the virus still need to be hedged with caveats and warnings that our knowledge is limited or subject to change. Yet we need to strongly correct misleading and false claims, so sometimes the data limitations get lost in the discussion.</p>\n\n<p>Here are the first three items in <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/18/top-10-uncertainties-about-coronavirus/\">our Top 10 list</a> of the most pressing uncertainties about the coronavirus:</p>\n\n<p><strong>1. How many people have been exposed to the coronavirus.</strong></p>\n\n<p>Yes, there are counts of confirmed cases that the cable news channels feature regularly. But those are only reported cases. We don&rsquo;t know the full extent of how many people have been exposed to the virus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2.</p>\n\n<p>While some people are exposed, get COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus) and end up in the hospital, other people get only mildly sick, and still others carry the virus without any symptoms at all. This means the true number of people who have the virus is larger than the number of reported cases, and probably much larger.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong>2. How widespread the virus is.</strong></p>\n\n<p>If we don&rsquo;t know precisely how many people have the virus, then we also don&rsquo;t know where the people who have it are. Is the coronavirus mostly in big cities, or is it in the suburbs or rural areas? Are some geographic areas hit harder than others, or are they just testing less? We&rsquo;ve talked to sources who have informed guesses, but nobody knows for sure. Also, the virus is on move, so whatever the picture would be today could be quite different in a few weeks.</p>\n\n<p><strong>3. How contagious the virus is.</strong></p>\n\n<p>The CDC says coronavirus spreads in droplets, which suggests you&rsquo;d have to be near an infected person to catch it. But there&rsquo;s nagging evidence that it spreads faster in enclosed spaces or where people work right next to each other (think of nursing homes or meatpacking plants), which suggests it has some potential to become aerosolized or airborne. Though rare, there are discouraging anecdotes of people practicing social distancing who get the virus anyway.</p>\n\n<p>The coronavirus seems to be more contagious than the flu but less contagious than measles. Right now, researchers believe a person with the coronavirus typically spreads it to two or three others. (This is called the virus&rsquo;s R0 or &quot;R-naught&quot; factor, and it&rsquo;s 2 to 2.5.) But these are estimates, not hard data.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/18/top-10-uncertainties-about-coronavirus/\">Read the rest of the list</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Pants on Fire</div>\n\n<p>Do you smell smoke?&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Here&#39;s your Pants on Fire fact-check of the week:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/14/blog-posting/no-democrats-arent-advocating-euthanizing-senior-c/\">No, Democrats aren&rsquo;t advocating euthanizing senior citizens to save Social Security</a>.</p>\n\n<p>You knew that one wasn&rsquo;t true, didn&rsquo;t you?</p>\n\n<p>See what else we&#39;ve rated <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/rulings/pants-fire/\">Pants on Fire</a> this week.</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-22T14:21:04-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "hunter-biden-and-china-sorting-through-murky-busin",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Hunter Biden and China: Sorting through a murky business deal",
            "entry": "<p>In recent weeks, President Donald Trump and his allies have ratcheted up attacks against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. One line of attack isn&rsquo;t new: a Chinese business deal involving Biden&rsquo;s son Hunter. Trump is giving it additional weight amid his criticism of China for its early handling of the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>In an <a href=\"https://factba.se/transcript/donald-trump-interview-fox-business-maria-bartiromo-may-14-2020\">interview</a> with Fox Business&rsquo; Maria Bartiromo, Trump accused previous administrations of being soft on China.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Worst of all was the last eight years under President Obama and Biden, where his son gets a billion and a half dollars, and then they&#39;re supposed to be tough on China. Doesn&#39;t work that way,&quot; Trump said.</p>\n\n<p>Trump went on to cite a conversation with Stephen A. Schwarzman, a billionaire investor, Republican donor and informal adviser to the president. &quot;I asked him, I said, &lsquo;Steve, is something like that possible?&rsquo; He said it&#39;s impossible. You can&#39;t get that money. He said this guy had no experience. He didn&#39;t even have a job. And he walked out of China with $1.5 billion to invest for them, of which he makes hundreds of thousands &mdash; and actually millions &mdash; of dollars. What is this?&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Trump&rsquo;s campaign added in a May 12 <a href=\"https://twitter.com/TeamTrump/status/1260272172611796993?s=20\">tweet</a> that &quot;Biden&#39;s son Hunter received over $1 billion from a Chinese government state owned bank,&quot; calling the elder Biden &quot;China&rsquo;s puppet.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>We <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/oct/02/donald-trumps-accusations-about-hunter-biden-and-c/\">delved into Hunter Biden&rsquo;s business deal in China</a> last fall, around the time it became a talking point for Trump. We found that Hunter Biden did in fact have an investment deal that involved the Bank of China, but that Trump&rsquo;s $1.5 billion figure was likely exaggerated.</p>\n\n<p>However, much about Hunter Biden&rsquo;s arrangement was, and remains, murky, given minimal disclosure requirements for cross-border investments. Complicating matters, Trump and his allies have consistently thrown around the $1.5 billion number, but have sometimes glossed over what that sum actually represents. It&rsquo;s unclear what personal income Biden is earning from the arrangement.</p>\n\n<p>We decided to take another look at the arrangement to see if it had become any clearer, and to try to get some more context from experts about how unusual the deal was in the universe of Chinese investments.</p>\n\n<p>We sent our previous article to the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign and George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, but none provided any additional information. We also looked into additional financial documents about the company and talked to experts on foreign business dealings.</p>\n\n<p>Overall, we found no indication that the younger Biden did anything illegal. Other relatives of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have had dealings with Chinese business.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">How and when did Hunter Biden get involved in China?</div>\n\n<p>During Joe Biden&rsquo;s tenure as vice president, a group of investment and consulting firms run by Hunter Biden and partner Devon Archer &quot;pursued business with international entities that had a stake in American foreign-policy decisions, sometimes in countries where connections implied political influence and protection,&quot; the New York Times <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/us/politics/biden-son-ukraine.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share\">reported</a>. One of the opportunities Hunter Biden found was in China.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Generally speaking, international investment firms seek to make money by buying stakes in companies, hoping to profit from their operations, their eventual sale or both. The firms that have ties to the Chinese government &quot;have some independence from the government and Communist Party, but only some,&quot; said Marc Blecher, professor of politics and East Asian studies at Oberlin College. &quot;They have to keep them informed and onside.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>While such firms will benefit private investors, Blecher said, &quot;they also have to help the jurisdiction in which they operate generate economic growth, which is crucial for the government officials there.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>The China chapter of Hunter Biden&rsquo;s life was chronicled by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author, in his 2019 book, &quot;<a href=\"https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Empires-American-Political-Corruption/dp/0062569376/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2HU6EA77WK77A&amp;keywords=schweizer+books&amp;qid=1569518637&amp;s=gateway&amp;sprefix=schweizer%2Caps%2C134&amp;sr=8-1\">Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends</a>.&quot;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Schweizer also wrote the book &quot;Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,&quot; which <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/oct/24/what-you-need-know-about-hillary-clinton-and-urani/\">received</a> some <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/may/06/peter-schweizer/clinton-cash-author-hillary-changed-positions-indi/\">poor</a> ratings from PolitiFact.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;In 2013, then-Vice President Biden and his son Hunter flew aboard Air Force Two to China,&quot; Schweizer wrote in a summary of his findings on <a href=\"https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/peter-schweizer-biden-familys-foreign-dealings-7-essential-facts\">FoxNews.com</a>. &quot;Ten days later, Hunter Biden&rsquo;s firm scored a $1.5 billion deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government&rsquo;s Bank of China.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>The book says that Archer and the younger Biden teamed up with the Thornton Group, an investment advisory firm, to pursue business in China. After the Bidens left China, Schweizer wrote, Rosemont Seneca, one of Hunter Biden&rsquo;s firms, and the Bank of China created an investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST, or BHR.</p>\n\n<p>The fund was involved in deals spanning a mixture of private enterprise and state-owned enterprise, Schweizer quoted the firm&rsquo;s CEO, Jonathan Li, as saying.</p>\n\n<p>The fund still has a <a href=\"http://www.bhrpe.com/list.php?catid=7&amp;page=1\">website</a> that describes BHR as &quot;the cross-border investment arm of Bohai Industrial Investment Fund.&quot; Established in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone in December 2013, BHR is &quot;approved by the State Council&quot; and &quot;combines the resources and platforms of China&rsquo;s largest financial institutions (including Bank of China, China Development Bank Capital, Harvest Fund, Postal Savings Bank of China, China Life and the National Council of Social Security Fund) and the networks and know-how of our U.S.-based investment fund and advisory firm shareholders.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What was Hunter Biden&rsquo;s role?</div>\n\n<p>Mesires, the lawyer for Hunter Biden, did not deny that Hunter Biden had business in China.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The framework for BHR, an investment management company, &quot;began to take shape at least as early as June 2013,&quot; he told PolitiFact during an interview last year.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>However, Mesires disputed multiple aspects of Schweizer&rsquo;s account. His assertions could not be independently verified, since the enterprise is private.</p>\n\n<p>For starters, Mesires told the <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-hunter-biden-walks-out-of-china-with-15-billion-a-lawyer-says-thats-not-true/2019/09/25/26b89e7e-dfcf-11e9-8dc8-498eabc129a0_story.html\">Washington Post</a> last year that Hunter Biden was on the board of an advisory firm and did not directly invest at first, instead advising those who did.</p>\n\n<p>Mesires told PolitiFact last year that Hunter Biden was an unpaid board member until October 2017, at which point he did take a financial stake in BHR.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;In October 2017, after his father left government service, Hunter acquired a 10% interest in BHR,&quot; Mesires said. As of October 2019, he added, &quot;Hunter&rsquo;s capital commitment for such interest is approximately $420,000.&quot; This account tracks with what was uncovered in a lengthy <a href=\"https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/07/08/will-hunter-biden-jeopardize-his-fathers-campaign\">New Yorker profile</a> of Hunter Biden.</p>\n\n<p>Moreover, to date, Hunter Biden &quot;has not received any return of capital or compensation on account of his investment or his position on the board of directors,&quot; Mesires told PolitiFact last year.</p>\n\n<p>We were unable to clarify whether Biden remains an investor or director with BHR.</p>\n\n<p>A Bloomberg <a href=\"https://www.bloomberg.com/profile/company/1065971D:CH\">company profile</a> for BHR continued to list Li as CEO and director as of May 2020. Biden&rsquo;s name is not included in the profile, either as an executive or a board member.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">How large was the value of the Bank of China deal?</div>\n\n<p>A July 2014 <a href=\"https://www.wsj.com/articles/bohai-harvest-and-u-s-investment-firms-expand-target-for-outbound-fund-1404956572\">Wall Street Journal article</a> about BHR reported that the firm &quot;started fundraising in the second quarter&quot; and was &quot;aiming to raise about $1.5 billion&quot; to invest in foreign companies. This means that, a full six months after Hunter Biden left China, the $1.5 billion figure was aspirational, not confirmed. This undermines Trump&rsquo;s version of events, which is that Hunter Biden quickly was given access to $1.5 billion in investment capital after a meeting while his father was vice president.</p>\n\n<p>Mesires said that the $1.5 billion amount was never reached. The investment fund raised about $4.2 million &quot;from various sources,&quot; Mesires said last year, without citing further detail.</p>\n\n<p>But solid information on the fund&rsquo;s money flows is hard to pin down. Information from financial databases and trade publications shows a few large deals that the fund has been involved in since 2014.</p>\n\n<p>In September 2014, or 10 months after Hunter Biden&rsquo;s trip to China, a deal was announced for BHR to invest 6 billion Chinese yuan, or about $1 billion at the prevailing exchange rate, in Sinopec Marketing Co. Ltd, a <a href=\"http://www.sinopec.com/listco/en/about_sinopec/subsidiaries/oil_products_sales/20190709/news_20190709_596264612812.shtml\">subsidiary</a> of a <a href=\"http://en.sasac.gov.cn/directorynames.html\">state-controlled</a> oil and gas company. The BHR investment, finalized in March 2015, was one of several simultaneous investments by various entities that added up to nearly a 30% stake in the firm.</p>\n\n<p>This illustrates that between its state-owned backers and the funds it raised, BHR had about $1 billion to spend within a year after Biden&rsquo;s trip.</p>\n\n<p>BHR&rsquo;s other two major deals also involved Chinese state-owned industrial giants.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>In September 2015, BHR paid $600 million to <a href=\"https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/henniges-automotive-acquired-by-avic-automotive-systems-holding-co-ltd-of-china-300139934.html\">buy</a> 49% of auto supplier Henniges Automotive Inc., with the <a href=\"http://en.sasac.gov.cn/directorynames.html\">state-owned</a> AVIC Automotive Systems Holding Co., <a href=\"https://theintercept.com/2019/05/03/biden-son-china-business/\">reportedly</a> acquiring 51%.</p>\n\n<p>And in April 2017, BHR paid $1.2 billion for 24% of Democratic Republic of Congo-based Tenke Fungurume Mining. Much of the rest of the company is owned by <a href=\"http://en.cmoc.com/html/AboutUs/Introduce/\">China Molybdenum Co</a>., a private holding company with &quot;state-owned capital participation.&quot; (BHR later said it had agreed to sell its share for $1.1. billion &mdash; a modest loss &mdash; to China Molybdenum, but that deal fell through in June 2019.)</p>\n\n<p>So where did the capital to make these investments by BHR come from? In 2019, the <a href=\"https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-we-know-about-hunter-bidens-dealings-in-china-11570181403\">Wall Street Journal</a>, citing business registrations, reported that BHR was 80%-controlled by Chinese entities. Biden, the Journal reported, holds a 10% stake.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What do we know about Hunter Biden&rsquo;s 2013 China trip?</div>\n\n<p>The New Yorker profile quotes a Beijing-based BHR official who said Hunter Biden arranged a quick meeting in the lobby of the American delegation&rsquo;s hotel in Beijing between Vice President Biden and Li, the BHR CEO. This was followed by a &quot;social meeting&quot; between Hunter Biden and Li, the New Yorker reported.</p>\n\n<p>Mesires said the meeting with Joe Biden was not a business meeting. He told PolitiFact that Hunter Biden did not conduct any business on the trip to China with his father. &quot;He traveled to China to accompany his daughter, the vice president&rsquo;s granddaughter, who could not travel unattended for the trip with her grandfather.&quot; Mesires said last year.</p>\n\n<p>In fact, Mesires said, &quot;the formation documents for BHR were submitted to the relevant Chinese authorities for filing and registration in November 2013,&quot; which was before the trip began. &quot;Hunter was not a signatory to the formation documents, because he did not acquire an equity interest until October 2017.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>BHR&rsquo;s licensing process had &quot;started well before then,&quot; Mesires said.</p>\n\n<p>In his book, Schweizer acknowledges that little is known about Hunter Biden&rsquo;s time in China on his father&rsquo;s trip, aside from a few photo-ops.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Where Hunter Biden spent the rest of his time on the trip remains largely a mystery,&quot; Schweizer writes. &quot;There are actually more reports of his daughter Finnegan&rsquo;s activities than his.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">How unusual was Biden&rsquo;s arrangement?</div>\n\n<p>A wide range of China experts told PolitiFact that it&rsquo;s not unusual for the Chinese government and businesses linked to the state to court prominent Americans or their family members.</p>\n\n<p>The Biden arrangement appears to be a &quot;normal deal that I expect from Chinese businessmen,&quot; said Zhiguo He, a finance professor at the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Booth School of Business.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;This is a standard operating procedure,&quot; agreed Barry Naughton, the chair of Chinese international affairs at the University of California-San Diego. &quot;Bring in an influential person, give him a small percentage of a firm as a &lsquo;finders fee,&rsquo; and grow the business.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>For instance, Neil Bush, the younger brother of then-President George W. Bush, <a href=\"https://www.smh.com.au/world/bushs-younger-brother-quizzed-over-2m-deal-20031126-gdhuyc.html\">testified </a>in a March 2003 divorce proceeding about a $2 million stock deal with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., a firm backed by the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.</p>\n\n<p>HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate, offered to buy a hedge fund owned by former White House official Anthony Scaramucci; retained the legal services of Gary Locke, the former U.S. ambassador to China, shortly before his confirmation; and provided financing to a private-equity firm backed by Jeb Bush, according to a 2019 account in <a href=\"https://theintercept.com/2019/05/03/biden-son-china-business/\">the Intercept</a>.</p>\n\n<p>The Bank of China <a href=\"https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/06/elaine-chao-father-james-transportation-department-569686\">added</a> Angela Chao, the sister of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and sister-in-law of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to its board of directors, the Intercept reported.</p>\n\n<p>In the meantime, critics have pointed to possible conflicts of interest for Trump and his own family, including the granting of <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/28/business/ivanka-trump-china-trademarks.html\">Chinese trademarks</a> to his daughter Ivanka, who owned a fashion line.</p>\n\n<p>Both the Biden and Trump instances involved a child of a powerful U.S. official getting special treatment or business opportunities from the Chinese government, but there are some differences. On one hand, Ivanka Trump&rsquo;s trademark approval involved an expedited regulatory review, as opposed to an ongoing investment opportunity. On the other hand, unlike Biden, she was actually a <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/people/ivanka-trump/\">White House official</a> at the time, in addition to being the president&rsquo;s daughter. And the president himself maintains extensive business interests around the world.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Were Hunter Biden&rsquo;s actions ethical under the circumstances?</div>\n\n<p>Experts said that neither of the Bidens appears to have done anything illegal. But experts in foreign policy and ethics said Hunter Biden was unwise to have put his father in an awkward position.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;It is apparent to me that Hunter Biden did not do anything illegal in China, but it would have been much better for Joe Biden&rsquo;s political fortunes if Hunter Biden had not been involved in either Ukraine or China,&quot; said Lincoln A. Mitchell, an adjunct research scholar at Columbia University&rsquo;s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. &quot;In countries like Ukraine and China, regardless of what Hunter Biden might think or say, people want to do business with him almost entirely because of who his father is.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Yoshiko Herrera, a University of Wisconsin professor who previously headed the university&rsquo;s Center for Russia, East Europe and Central Asia, agreed.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;It would have been more prudent to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest,&quot; she said, adding that if Hunter Biden &quot;is providing some specific value to these companies other than the possibility of access to his father, it would be helpful to know exactly what that was, or is.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Naughton agreed. &quot;It is certainly a bad thing that our political system allows deals like this, and a bad thing that Hunter Biden takes advantage of them, but they are allowed,&quot; Naughton said.</p>\n\n<p><em>PolitiFact contributor Caryn Baird provided research for this report.</em></p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-22T14:18:43-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "were-oregon-voters-mailed-wrong-ballots-primary-el",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Were Oregon voters mailed the ‘wrong’ ballots for the primary election?",
            "entry": "<p>As President Donald Trump threatened states that want to increase mail balloting, a claim is circulating that Oregon, where all voting is by mail, denied Republicans the right to vote in partisan races on May 19.</p>\n\n<p>A headline on an <a href=\"https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2020/05/huge-scandal-oregon-changes-hundreds-republican-ballots-non-partisan-denying-gop-voters-right-participate-primary/?fbclid=IwAR0zmp-zK5qvb5xea5jyu-TfcoOHRpXRW9EhzpwsjVZDww116ifw3SPXZEg\">article</a> on The Gateway Pundit, a <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/personalities/gateway-pundit/\">conservative</a> website says:</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Huge Scandal: Oregon Changes Hundreds Of Republican Ballots To &quot;Non Partisan&quot; Denying GOP Voters the Right To Participate In Primary.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>There&rsquo;s no evidence yet to back up the headline.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>But one state senator says his office has received hundreds of calls from angry voters who say they received the wrong ballot. And on Facebook, the My Party Was Changed Oregon <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/groups/164104315035112/\">page</a>, created May 8, has attracted more than <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/groups/164104315035112/about/\">1,700</a> members.</p>\n\n<p>The situation in Oregon highlights one challenge of mail balloting, even as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/12/facebook-posts/mail-voting-amid-covid-19-among-options-recommende/\">recommends</a> it to Americans as a way to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Mail voting pioneer</div>\n\n<p>Oregon became a vote-by-mail-only state after voters there approved a referendum in <a href=\"https://multco.us/elections/brief-history-vote-mail-oregon\">1998</a>. Colorado, Hawaii, Washington and Utah <a href=\"https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/all-mail-elections.aspx\">also</a> hold all elections entirely by mail.</p>\n\n<p>Trump, who has repeatedly claimed with scant evidence that mail balloting results in widespread voter fraud, said on the day after Oregon&rsquo;s election that a &quot;rogue&quot; Michigan official had sent absentee ballots to 7.7 million people &quot;illegally and without authorization.&quot; Our rating was <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/20/donald-trump/trump-falsely-claims-michigan-sent-ballots-all-vot/\">Pants on Fire</a>. Michigan&rsquo;s secretary of state had announced that she would send all registered voters an application to vote by mail in that state&rsquo;s August primary and November general elections, not ballots.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>One notable race in Oregon&rsquo;s May 19 primary was financial adviser Jo Rae Perkins winning a four-way <a href=\"https://results.oregonvotes.gov/resultsSW.aspx?type=FED&amp;map=CTY\">race</a> for the Republican Senate nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley in November. She appeared to endorse, then recanted, the QAnon conspiracy theory, The Oregonian <a href=\"https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2020/05/oregon-republican-senate-nominee-backs-away-from-election-day-support-for-qanon-conspiracy-theory.html\">reported</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Different voters, different ballots</div>\n\n<p>In Oregon, primary elections are closed, which means only registered Democrats and registered Republicans can vote in their respective primaries.</p>\n\n<p>So, Oregon voters registered as Republicans receive ballots with Republican primary races on them and voters registered as Democrats get ballots with Democratic races. Nonpartisan contests appear on both ballots.</p>\n\n<p>In the May 19 primary, there were partisan races for president as well as Congress and other offices; and there were nonpartisan races for <a href=\"http://oregonvotes.gov/voters-guide/english/votersguide.html#Voter%20Registration%20Information\">offices</a> such as state judge and county sheriff.</p>\n\n<p>Anger and confusion surfaced when some voters received ballots with only nonpartisan races.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Voters say they got wrong ballots</div>\n\n<p>People who posted on the My Party Was Changed Oregon Facebook page said they had been registered with one of the major parties for years, but received nonpartisan ballots; most said they were Republicans.</p>\n\n<p>Some users claimed a conspiracy against Republican voters. Others pointed out that under the state&rsquo;s Motor Voter Act, which took effect in <a href=\"https://sos.oregon.gov/voting/Pages/motor-voter-faq.aspx\">2016</a>, Oregonians are automatically registered to vote when they apply for, or renew, their drivers licenses.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>By default, those voters are registered as having no party affiliation. They have to take another step to register a party affiliation with the state. In the case of the May 19 primary, a voter had to register their party affiliation by <a href=\"https://data.oregon.gov/Administrative/Public-Calendar/yik7-npc9\">April 28</a> to receive the partisan ballot.</p>\n\n<p>That meant some voters who were registered as nonaffiliated didn&rsquo;t get to change their affiliation in time.</p>\n\n<p>There had been indications that many voters could find themselves in that situation.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Oregon Public Broadcasting <a href=\"https://www.opb.org/news/article/nonaffiliated-voters-oregon/\">reported</a> in December that according to the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office, the number of non affiliated voters had increased by nearly 60,000 since the beginning of 2019. The news story said that was largely due to the motor voter law and the fact that most voters don&rsquo;t select their party affiliation even though they should receive a postcard from the state instructing them on how to do so on the state elections <a href=\"http://oregonvotes.gov\">website</a> or by <a href=\"https://sos.oregon.gov/voting/pages/updatevoterregistration.aspx\">mail</a>.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Some voters might have forgotten</div>\n\n<p>It&rsquo;s not clear whether longtime voters who complained about receiving a nonpartisan ballot simply did not realize they were not registered as a Democrat or Republican, or if mistakes were made by state officials, perhaps at the DMV, that resulted in voters being defaulted to nonaffiliated status.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>State Rep. Mike Nearman, a Republican, told PolitiFact his office has received hundreds of complaints from voters who say they received the wrong May 19 ballot. He said that after speaking to some GOP voters, it&rsquo;s clear they had forgotten they had changed their status from GOP to unaffiliated after, for example, getting mad at a particular GOP politician. But he said the number of complaints has led him to seek answers from the DMV on whether there may have been software errors or other explanations. He said he hopes to have answers within a few weeks.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Andrea Chiapella, a spokeswoman for Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican, said the office received a few requests to look into what might have happened, but that &quot;we haven&rsquo;t found any improper changes&quot; to a voter&#39;s party affiliation without the voter&#39;s permission.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We get a handful of these complaints every two years during a primary&quot; involving both parties, she said, &quot;and none have ever shown evidence that the political party was fraudulently changed.&quot;</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-22T12:05:18-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "trump-has-pushed-out-5-inspectors-general-april-he",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Trump has pushed out 5 inspectors general since April. Here’s who they are",
            "entry": "<p>With the U.S. consumed by the coronavirus, President Donald Trump has taken steps to purge his administration of several independent government watchdogs. The push has Democrats and government ethics experts saying he&rsquo;s undermining a vital oversight apparatus.</p>\n\n<p>On May 15, Trump <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/15/politics/trump-letter-state-department-inspector-general/index.html\">announced</a> his intent to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and replaced acting Transportation Department Inspector General Mitch Behm, the latest in a string of dismissals of the officials tasked with overseeing federal agencies.</p>\n\n<p>Since early April, Trump has taken steps to remove or replace five inspectors general from their respective offices in the intelligence community and the departments of defense, health and human services, state and transportation. Four of the changes came <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/16/trumps-slow-moving-friday-night-massacre-inspectors-general/\">on Friday nights</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Technically, only the intelligence community&rsquo;s Michael Atkinson has been fired so far. Behm and two others were working in acting capacities, so they were demoted to prior positions. And <a href=\"http://law.\">by law</a>, Linick&rsquo;s removal won&rsquo;t take effect until 30 days after Trump&rsquo;s <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/15/politics/trump-letter-state-department-inspector-general/index.html\">notification of Congress</a>.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-roundtable-restaurant-executives-industry-leaders/\">At the White House May 18</a>, Trump said that his actions are routine. &quot;I think every president has gotten rid of probably more than I have,&quot; he said.</p>\n\n<p>But there&rsquo;s no precedent for Trump&rsquo;s rapid removals, experts told us. President Barack Obama fired one inspector general, according to the <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-ramps-up-retaliatory-purge-with-firing-of-state-department-inspector-general/2020/05/16/8f8b55da-979a-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html\">Washington Post</a>. Trump, meanwhile, <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-roundtable-restaurant-executives-industry-leaders/\">said</a> he&rsquo;s suggested for years that his agencies fire any Obama-appointed investigators.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We are seeing right now, in real time, a true crisis in terms of the ability for there to be independent oversight and accountability within the executive branch,&quot; said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight.</p>\n\n<p>Here&rsquo;s what else experts said about the significance of the removals, and what you should know about the five inspectors general who have been ousted from their roles.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What the removals mean</div>\n\n<p>Experts from nonprofit watchdog groups told us Trump is ratcheting up a years-long attack on government institutions meant to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The scale of Trump&rsquo;s dismissals would have been &quot;completely unimaginable&quot; to those who passed the <a href=\"https://www.ignet.gov/sites/default/files/files/igactasof1010(1).pdf\">post-Watergate law</a> to establish inspector generals, Hempowicz said.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;A lot of people have asked me to put this in historical perspective,&quot; added Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. &quot;The challenge is that in the 42 years since the passage of the Inspector General Act, there hasn&rsquo;t been a president that has reacted with this level of hostility to the inspector general community.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>One wrinkle that&#39;s&nbsp;troubling, experts said, is the replacement of acting inspectors general at the departments of transportation and defense with new acting inspectors general &mdash; a move that, unlike for permanent nominations, doesn&rsquo;t require Senate confirmation.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;To me, what that says is that the president is exercising the ability to cherry pick who is conducting oversight, even in the interim,&quot; Hempowicz said.</p>\n\n<p>Congress has more power to protect permanent inspectors general like Atkinson and Linick, experts said. In Linick&rsquo;s case, they can start by demanding proof the firing is justified.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;You can&rsquo;t just say you&rsquo;ve lost confidence in an inspector general,&quot; Hempowicz said, referencing Trump&rsquo;s stated explanation for Linick&rsquo;s firing. &quot;You have to say why you lost confidence.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Lawmakers opposed to Linick&rsquo;s ouster could also hold hearings or leverage other powers to pressure Trump, Sherman said, noting that such campaigns have worked before.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Congress can&rsquo;t block the president from removing an inspector general,&quot; he said. &quot;But there is a lot more that Congress can do to discover the real reasons why the president is firing these IGs and to put more pressure on him.&quot;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Steve Linick, inspector general of the State Department</div>\n\n<p>See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com</p>\n\n<p><em>Steve Linick, State Department Inspector General, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 10, 2014, before a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing. (AP/Vucci)</em></p>\n\n<p>Trump notified Congress of his intent to fire Linick, the State Department&rsquo;s inspector general since 2013, in a <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/15/politics/trump-letter-state-department-inspector-general/index.html\">May 15 letter</a> that said Linick no longer had Trump&rsquo;s &quot;fullest confidence.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>But speaking at the <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-roundtable-restaurant-executives-industry-leaders/\">White House May 18</a>, Trump said he doesn&rsquo;t know Linick and that he ordered the firing at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo&rsquo;s request.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Democrats have opened an investigation into Linick&rsquo;s firing, writing in letters to the <a href=\"https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/_cache/files/8/d/8da0aa4f-a15c-4e06-95fd-fec3354349f6/405342547241548579C8FD9CE08E609F.5-16-2020.-ele-menendez-letter-to-wh-preservation-order.pdf\">White House</a>, <a href=\"https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/_cache/files/1/9/19dca9e5-3a85-495e-91b4-e756a923f844/6ED0F6C850ABADB4D3C353021AC2E819.5-16-2020.-ele-menendez-letter-to-biegun-preservation-order.pdf\">State Department</a> and <a href=\"https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/_cache/files/e/4/e4cc407e-8cdf-4d54-8e5e-f6e6262e1eb5/98001CA54249C2DD155A93B746A1BD3F.5-16-2020.-ele-menendez-letter-to-state-oig-preservation-order.pdf\">Linick</a> that they suspect Pompeo sought Linick&rsquo;s removal as retaliation for his investigations into Pompeo&rsquo;s actions.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/us/politics/pompeo-trump-linick-inspector-general-firing.html\">Multiple</a> <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/18/politics/state-department-inspector-general-investigating-pompeo-saudi-arms-deal/index.html\">news</a> <a href=\"https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/18/linick-administration-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-265024\">outlets</a> <a href=\"https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/saudi-arms-sale-was-second-area-investigation-fired-state-department-n1209521\">reported</a> that Linick was investigating Pompeo&rsquo;s decision to bypass Congress while sending billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia roughly last year, as well as whether Pompeo made a staffer run personal errands for him and his wife.</p>\n\n<p>Linick was <a href=\"https://web.archive.org/web/20200518221958/https://www.stateoig.gov/about/IG\">nominated</a> to the post by Obama after working for years in the Justice Department and serving as the first inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.</p>\n\n<p>He was <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/oct/03/timeline-trump-impeachment-inquiry/\">a minor player</a> in Trump&rsquo;s impeachment, privately briefing members of Congress in October about documents that Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a key player in the events that led to Trump&rsquo;s impeachment, had given the State Department.</p>\n\n<p>Linick also oversaw a <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2016/oct/20/donald-trump/trump-wrongly-says-6-billion-went-missing-state-de/\">2016 probe</a> of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s private email use.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Mitch Behm, acting inspector general of the Transportation Department</div>\n\n<p>Behm, the Transportation Department&rsquo;s deputy inspector general, <a href=\"https://web.archive.org/web/20200518205300/https://www.oig.dot.gov/about-oig/deputy-inspector-general\">had been serving</a> as the department&rsquo;s acting inspector general since Feb. 1.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>As acting inspector general, Behmn had inherited a <a href=\"https://transportation.house.gov/news/press-releases/amid-new-report-of-secretary-chao-using-a-taxpayer-funded-program-to-dole-out-favors-chair-defazio-formally-requests-dot-inspector-general-broaden-ongoing-inquiry\">review</a> his predecessor opened into Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Sherman said.</p>\n\n<p>According to <a href=\"https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/17/chao-mcconnell-transportation-kentucky-086343\">Politico</a>, the probe was looking at whether Chao gave preferential treatment to Kentucky to benefit her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.</p>\n\n<p>But on May 15, the White House announced changes to the department inspector general&rsquo;s office, the <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-ramps-up-retaliatory-purge-with-firing-of-state-department-inspector-general/2020/05/16/8f8b55da-979a-11ea-82b4-c8db161ff6e5_story.html\">Washington Post</a> reported.</p>\n\n<p>Trump not only <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-intent-nominate-individuals-key-administration-posts-29/\">nominated</a> a Justice Department attorney to take over as the department&rsquo;s permanent inspector general, but he also named a new acting inspector general to replace Behm while that nomination awaits confirmation in the Senate.</p>\n\n<p>Behm has been with the Transportation Department <a href=\"https://web.archive.org/web/20200518205300/https://www.oig.dot.gov/about-oig/deputy-inspector-general\">since 2003</a>. He is <a href=\"https://web.archive.org/web/20200518211836/https://pandemic.oversight.gov/about/prac/members\">listed</a> as a member of the committee overseeing the economic relief packages passed in response to the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Christi Grimm, acting inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department</div>\n\n<p>Grimm, the Health and Human Services Department&rsquo;s <a href=\"https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/christi-grimm/index.html\">top deputy inspector general</a> since January, had been serving as the department&rsquo;s acting inspector general until early May, when Trump <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-intent-nominate-appoint-individuals-key-administration-posts-37/\">announced</a> he was nominating an assistant U.S. attorney to fill the post.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Her replacement came shortly after she drew Trump&rsquo;s ire for an <a href=\"https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-20-00300.pdf\">April 3 report</a> that said hospitals were experiencing shortages of tests, personal protective equipment and medical staff at a time when Trump was celebrating his administration&rsquo;s response to the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>Trump <a href=\"https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-press-briefing-21/\">said</a> the report, which was based on a survey of more than 300 U.S. hospitals, was &quot;just wrong.&quot; On <a href=\"https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1247545358705664002?s=20\">Twitter</a>, he called it a &quot;fake dossier.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>See Figure 2 on PolitiFact.com</p>\n\n<p>Grimm has now returned full-time to her job as principal deputy inspector general. She&rsquo;s been with the inspector general&rsquo;s office <a href=\"https://www.hhs.gov/about/leadership/christi-grimm/index.html\">since 1999</a>, serving under administrations from both parties.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Glenn Fine, acting inspector general of the Defense Department</div>\n\n<p>Fine, the principal deputy inspector general of the Defense Department since 2015, had been serving as the Pentagon&rsquo;s acting inspector general since before Trump took office.</p>\n\n<p>He had been appointed to <a href=\"https://ignet.gov/sites/default/files/files/PRAC-press-release.pdf\">chair</a> the committee overseeing the economic relief packages passed in response to the coronavirus. But on April 6, Trump <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/us/politics/trump-coronavirus-watchdog-glenn-fine.html\">ousted</a> Fine from his Defense Department job, meaning he could no longer take charge of the new oversight panel.</p>\n\n<p>Trump replaced Fine with a different acting inspector general and nominated another person to take over the role permanently pending Senate confirmation.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Fine has now resumed work as the department&rsquo;s top deputy inspector general, according to the <a href=\"https://www.dodig.mil/Biographies/Bio-Display/Article/1015033/glenn-fine/\">Pentagon</a>. He was previously the Justice Department&rsquo;s inspector general from 2000 to 2011.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the Intelligence Community</div>\n\n<p>See Figure 3 on PolitiFact.com</p>\n\n<p><em>Michael Atkinson, then the inspector general of the intelligence community, arrives at the Capitol in Washington to testify privately about a whistleblower complaint on Oct. 4, 2019. (AP/Applewhite)</em></p>\n\n<p>On April 3, Trump <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/03/politics/read-michael-atkinson-letter/index.html\">signaled</a> his intent to fire Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/sep/26/read-inspector-generals-letter-ukraine-whistleblow/\">handled</a> the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump&rsquo;s impeachment.</p>\n\n<p>Defending his decision to reporters, Trump said Atkinson was a &quot;disgrace to IGs&quot; and <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/apr/06/donald-trump/firing-inspector-general-donald-trump-falsely-repe/\">falsely claimed</a> Atkinson brought a &quot;terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report&quot; to Congress.</p>\n\n<p>Atkinson alerted Congress in August that a whistleblower complaint he received was credible and of &quot;urgent concern,&quot; but the complaint was <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/sep/25/what-whistleblower-law-says-about-sharing-complain/\">blocked</a> by the then-acting director of national intelligence, Joseph MaGuire.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The complaint, which detailed Trump&rsquo;s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, was ultimately <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2019/sep/26/read-declassified-whistleblower-complaint-ukraine-/\">declassified</a>. The inquiry that followed led to Trump&rsquo;s impeachment in the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.</p>\n\n<p>Trump had nominated Atkinson to the position, which he <a href=\"https://web.archive.org/web/20200121123849/https://www.dni.gov/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=355:inspector-general&amp;catid=196:biographies\">took over</a> in May 2018. He previously worked in the Justice Department for over 15 years.</p>\n\n<p>In his letter to Congress &mdash; which matched the letter he later sent regarding Linick &mdash; Trump said he did not have &quot;the fullest confidence&quot; in Atkinson. A bipartisan group of senators sent a <a href=\"https://www.grassley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04-08%20CEG%20et%20al%20to%20POTUS%20%28IC%20IG%20removal%29.pdf\">response</a> demanding more explanation, but Atkinson was <a href=\"https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1262001230366363648?s=20\">ultimately</a> removed after 30 days.</p>\n\n<p>In a <a href=\"https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/6865-atkinson-statement-on-removal/339e56bc31e7c607c4b9/optimized/full.pdf#page=1\">statement</a> on his removal, Atkinson said, &quot;It is hard not to think that the president&rsquo;s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial inspector general.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>An <a href=\"https://www.dni.gov/index.php/who-we-are/organizations/icig/icig-about-us/icig-leadership/icig-ig-bio\">acting</a> inspector general now occupies the role.&nbsp;</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-19T17:42:20-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "how-are-election-officials-preparing-pandemic-elec",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "How battleground states are preparing for the pandemic election’s massive increase in voting by mail",
            "entry": "<p>About half of voters in Lee County, Fla., decided to cast their votes by mail in the past two statewide elections. Elections supervisor Tommy Doyle expects that to climb to 70% in November due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.</p>\n\n<p>Doyle, a Republican in a <a href=\"https://www.lee.vote/\">conservative-leaning county</a>, home to Fort Myers, has encouraged voters to mail their ballots this year out of concern for their <a href=\"https://www.lee.vote/Voter-Health-and-Safety\">safety</a>. He is sending information about voting by mail, with a postage-paid return envelope, to every address in the county. For voters who had already requested a ballot, he is sending a card to confirm that their address remains current.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>At the same time, Doyle is doing his best now to ensure that Election Day is safe for people who want or need to cast their ballots in person.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We are now getting quotes to install sneeze guards at all our offices that take in the public and extra face masks and everything we need for sanitation at polls,&quot; he said.</p>\n\n<p>With the 2020 presidential election less than six months away, state and local officials are scrambling to prepare for a potentially massive increase in voting by mail.</p>\n\n<p>In 2016, <a href=\"https://www.eac.gov/news/2017/06/29/newly-released-2016-election-administration-and-voting-survey-provides-snapshot-of-nations-voter-turnout-registration-trends-voting-systems-election-administration-and-voting-survey-eavs-data-media\">about one-quarter of votes</a> nationally were cast by mail through absentee voting. This year, some state governments have already changed laws and policies to expand it.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Virginia and <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-hampshire-gov-sununu-to-allow-absentee-voting-in-november-because-of-coronavirus-outbreak/2020/04/09/d0aa21c8-7aa2-11ea-a130-df573469f094_story.html\">New Hampshire</a> no longer require an excuse to cast an absentee vote (setting them apart from 15 states that still do). In <a href=\"https://www.capradio.org/articles/2020/05/08/watch-live-gov-gavin-newsom-update-on-covid-19-for-friday-may-8/\">California</a>, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a ballot sent to every voter. A <a href=\"https://www.ky3.com/content/news/Missouri-Senators-pass-bill-allowing-expanded-absentee-voting-during-pandemic-570514791.html\">bill to ease mail balloting</a> in Missouri is now at the governor&rsquo;s desk. And New York, Kentucky, <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/politics/louisiana-coronavirus-absentee-ballots/index.html\">Louisiana</a>, and <a href=\"https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/2020/05/12/no-excuse-absentee-voting-in-sc-approved-coronavirus-concerns/3119655001/\">South Carolina</a> have <a href=\"https://www.vox.com/covid-19-coronavirus-us-response-trump/2020/4/25/21236389/new-york-kentucky-expand-vote-by-mail-coronavirus\">made the vote-by-mail process easier</a> for their respective primaries, though not yet for the general election.</p>\n\n<p>The nitty-gritty of administering the 2020 vote, however, is left to local officials like Doyle who are making their best guesses about how to prepare.</p>\n\n<p>To size up how ready the country is for a pandemic election, PolitiFact interviewed state and local officials in six states frequently <a href=\"https://www.usnews.com/news/elections/articles/2019-12-10/how-trump-or-a-democrat-can-win-the-electoral-college-in-2020\">cited by political handicappers</a> as the most competitive tossups in the country: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Election officials described multiple challenges with managing an expansion of mail-in ballots &mdash; even in places where it is already common &mdash; while keeping in-person voting open and safe.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Of the six, Arizona is the only one where mail balloting is the dominant form of voting. In Phoenix-based Maricopa County, almost 74% of the county&rsquo;s 2.4 million registered voters are on the permanent list for mail-in ballots.</p>\n\n<p>Florida and Michigan see moderately high use of mail-in voting. Michigan&rsquo;s March 2020 presidential primary, held in the pandemic&rsquo;s early days, saw increases in absentee voting of 60% to 80% in many jurisdictions, according to the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Some even saw increases of greater than 100%.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>But in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, mail ballots historically account for only <a href=\"https://cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/national-politics/just-what-will-voting-look-fall\">single-digit shares</a> of the votes cast. That&rsquo;s not likely to be the case this fall.</p>\n\n<p>Ahead of its June 2 primary, populous Allegheny County, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh, <a href=\"https://www.publicsource.org/the-push-for-mail-in-voting-for-the-june-2-primary-underscores-challenges-for-the-upcoming-election/\">moved to reduce</a> in-person voting and encourage mail balloting. And officials in Bucks County, Pa., near Philadelphia told PolitiFact they have also seen a substantial increase in absentee ballot requests for the primary.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Wisconsin&rsquo;s chaotic April 7 <a href=\"https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2020/04/21/wisconsin-absentee-ballot-crisis-fueled-multiple-failures/5156825002/\">election</a> showed many officials what they want to avoid: multiple lawsuits, missing absentee ballots, and a shortage of poll workers that led to many election sites closing, prompting <a href=\"https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/04/07/wisconsin-election-milwaukee-voters-brave-long-wait-lines-polls/2962228001/\">long lines</a> at the remaining sites.</p>\n\n<p>Wisconsin is one of many states where the vast majority of voters normally cast ballots in person rather than by mail. But on April 7, that pattern flipped.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>For example, in the city of Oconomowoc, in historically Republican Waukesha County near Milwaukee, 85% voted by absentee and 15% in person. That&rsquo;s essentially the opposite of four years ago, city clerk Diane Coenen said, and will be used as a guide for the August primary.</p>\n\n<p>In interviews with PolitiFact, local officials described what they&rsquo;re working on and what they&rsquo;re worried about ahead of the election. Complicating matters, however, is that there is only so much within their control. State governments may pass new laws and judges may issue rulings, while the U.S. Postal Service needs to navigate a <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/14/trump-postal-service-package-rates/\">difficult fiscal situation</a> if it is to deliver the flood of new mail ballots.</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 2 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p><em>A voter wearing a protective mask&nbsp;in Dunwoody, Ga., on May 18, 2020. (AP)</em></p>\n\n<p><strong>Equipment and supplies</strong>. The list of needed equipment includes specialized machines and humble supplies like envelopes and postage.</p>\n\n<p>In Bucks County, Pa., the county commission recently doubled its order of high-speed scanners to handle incoming mail, and it retained a mail-handling company to help with the job of running a more mail-dependent election.</p>\n\n<p>For its remaining in-person voting sites, Bucks County has been shelling out for facemasks, disinfecting wipes and the like, using both state and federal money. This comes on top of a shift to voter-verified paper balloting machines that were mandated before the pandemic and are now undergoing their first serious test in an election.</p>\n\n<p>In Florida&rsquo;s Palm Beach County, a challenging item has been hand sanitizer. Officials are also working to secure portable plexiglass partitions for poll workers.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Counting the ballots</strong>. For jurisdictions that are used to handling small amounts of mail ballots, the increase expected for the fall is going to require additional manpower.</p>\n\n<p>Michigan election officials want lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow groups of communities within the same county to form a single absentee-voter counting board to process and tabulate mailed ballots on Election Day. They say this would help local clerks process ballots more efficiently. Another bill would allow for &quot;pre-processing&quot; of absentee ballots, short of opening the vote itself, to speed the process of tabulation on Election Night.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Lawsuits over ballot procedures are already happening. In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs are <a href=\"https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/pa-absentee-ballot-deadlines-lawsuit-20200427.html\">asking</a> a state court to require the state to count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, not just those received by Election Day. The plaintiffs are concerned that delays in processing mail ballot requests could effectively disenfranchise voters through no fault of their own.</p>\n\n<p>In Wake County, N.C., officials typically review every absentee ballot envelope to make sure it has the voter&rsquo;s signature and a witness. Based on the projected increase in absentee ballots, board member Gerry Cohen estimated that the elections board would need to meet five days a week, 10 hours a day, for 21 days to get it all done.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Problems at in-person voting sites</strong>. The reality is that some people, whether out of need or habit, will want to vote in person, and the locations will need to be roomy enough for social distancing.</p>\n\n<p>Palm Beach County, Fla., officials are grappling with the reality that some voting sites are on privately owned property, such as churches, temples and assisted living facilities. Some of these sites may not be available due to the pandemic.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 3 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p><em>Election worker Kevin Myvette wears a mask while assisting voters during a special election for California&#39;s 25th Congressional District seat on May 12, 2020. (AP)</em></p>\n\n<p><strong>Shortages of poll workers</strong>. About 60% of poll workers across the country are age 61 or older, according to the Pew Research Center. That puts many of them squarely in a higher-risk group for coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>In Greene County, N.C., most poll workers are retired. Trey Cash, the county&rsquo;s elections director, said one of his fears is that during early voting, someone will come in with a simple cold, creating rumors that lead poll workers to decide not to take the risk of working.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We are trying to reach out to a younger population to serve as poll workers,&quot; while also retaining those who have worked in the past, he said.</p>\n\n<p>In Michigan, election officials have launched a recruitment effort that attracted at least 1,800 individuals within its first few weeks. College-age residents could be a target population for replenishing the ranks of election volunteers, officials said.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Partisan and state government paralysis</strong>. Wisconsin, with a Democratic governor and Republican Legislature, <a href=\"https://cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/national-politics/just-what-will-voting-look-fall\">isn&rsquo;t the only battleground state where partisan officials have been at war</a>. Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania also have a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, and the health and economic strains of the pandemic have made it difficult for lawmakers to come together and enact changes in election law.</p>\n\n<p>In North Carolina, where officials say they expect voting by mail to explode from its typical level of 4% of ballots cast to as much as 40%, the <a href=\"https://bladenonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/North-Carolina-State-Board-of-Elections-Legislative-Recommendations-COVID-19.pdf\">state board of elections recommended</a> that the legislature should expand access by allowing a voter to submit an absentee ballot request form by fax or email, provide pre-paid postage, and reduce or eliminate the witness requirement. But the Assembly has not yet adopted these recommendations.</p>\n\n<p>In Florida, the statewide association of election supervisors <a href=\"https://www.scribd.com/document/455464689/FSE-Recommendations-COVID-19#from_embed\">asked</a> Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 7 to alter state election procedures to give them more flexibility to operate elections, including adding early voting days, leaving early voting sites open on Election Day, and expanding the time to send out absentee ballots. Those changes would help supervisors who face an anticipated shortage of workers to cover as many as hundreds of election day precincts.</p>\n\n<p>Six weeks after the request, the state had not yet acted, despite <a href=\"https://www.sun-sentinel.com/coronavirus/fl-ne-florida-coronavirus-elecion-preparations-democrats-desantis-20200513-pnkqjqgamvhwdcmt6sgl6sdv3e-story.html\">another plea from the association.</a></p>\n\n<p>If DeSantis grants the association&rsquo;s request, Doyle, Lee County&rsquo;s supervisor of elections, said he would eliminate precinct voting and add early voting sites that could accommodate voters for two weeks. He would also need to train only 500 workers, rather than 2,000.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Misinformation</strong>. In Arizona, and likely other states, misinformation about procedures and timelines for voting remains the main challenge. Election officials fear that anonymous bad actors will try to send voters to the wrong location or suggest voting on the wrong day.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The Arizona Secretary of State&rsquo;s office is working with its national association to make sure voters go directly to election officials&rsquo; websites and verified social media pages throughout the election cycle, rather than ones of questionable veracity. The office is seeking to provide accessible election information in English, Spanish, and Navajo, said office spokeswoman Sophia Solis.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Cost</strong>. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in March earmarked $400 million in emergency assistance for voting. That money is already starting to trickle down to election officials across the country. Some states are providing money on top of that.</p>\n\n<p>Whether it will be enough remains to be seen.</p>\n\n<p>In May, the <a href=\"https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article242699171.html\">Florida election supervisors</a> urged DeSantis to join nearly every other state in accepting federal CARES Act money to help pay for election costs, including personal protective equipment for poll workers. Florida officials announced that it would accept the $20 million in federal money and work with the Legislature to find a $4 million state match.</p>\n\n<p>In Maricopa County, Ariz., officials say they will likely need additional federal funding to support the coronavirus response.</p>\n\n<p>If Michigan conducted the August primary and November general election the same way it did the March presidential primary, plus additional resources such as high-speed tabulator machines, &quot;we are estimating a need of about $40 million from the federal government,&quot; Wimmer said. By comparison, the state has received $11.2 million from the CARES Act for election costs.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We&rsquo;re operating under reality as opposed to hope,&quot; said Gail Humphrey, chief clerk in Bucks County, Pa. &quot;But it&rsquo;s completely uncharted territory.&quot;</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-19T13:24:49-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "does-voting-mail-lead-higher-turnout-red-blue-and-",
            "personalities": [
                {
                    "slug": "gavin-newsom",
                    "full_name": "Gavin Newsom",
                    "first_name": "Gavin",
                    "last_name": "Newsom"
                },
                {
                    "slug": "donald-trump",
                    "full_name": "Donald Trump",
                    "first_name": "Donald",
                    "last_name": "Trump"
                }
            ],
            "headline": "Does voting by mail lead to higher turnout in red, blue and purple states? It’s not that simple",
            "entry": "<p>Recent <a href=\"https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1247861952736526336\">claims</a> by President Trump, that voting by mail leads to fraud and hurts Republicans, have put a spotlight on the topic. They&rsquo;ve also inspired pushback from Democratic leaders in California, where generations of voters have used &quot;absentee ballots,&quot; and <a href=\"https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/historical-absentee/\">72 percent</a> of all ballots cast in the state&rsquo;s March primary were by mail.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>On Friday, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla claimed on the <a href=\"https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444253/pri-the-takeaway\">national radio show The Takeaway</a> that vote-by-mail has helped boost voter turnout &quot;not just in blue states like California, but in red states and purple states across the country.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Here&rsquo;s Padilla&rsquo;s full statement in context:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Here&rsquo;s the truth about vote by mail: It&rsquo;s a proven practice that&rsquo;s not only safe and secure and efficient for administrators, it&rsquo;s tremendously convenient for voters and has helped increase voter turnout rates and not just in blue states like California, but in red states and purple states across the country. So to suggest that vote-by-mail is not inherently safe, is not only false, frankly it&rsquo;s also an attempt to distract.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>We examined Padilla&rsquo;s assertion that mail-voting aids turnout in so-called blue, red and purple states. We found there&rsquo;s some circumstantial evidence to support it, though it&rsquo;s not necessarily conclusive.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Background on voting-by-mail</strong></p>\n\n<p>There&rsquo;s a patchwork of voting methods across the nation.</p>\n\n<p>Just five states regularly conduct universal vote-by-mail elections: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. In those states, ballots are automatically sent to all registered voters, who then fill them out and mail them back. Twelve states allow counties to opt-in to mail-voting or allow it for certain elections, but not others.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Voters in another 29 states have the option to vote-by-mail in federal elections, but must request such a ballot, according to an <a href=\"https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/few-states-are-prepared-to-switch-to-voting-by-mail-that-could-make-for-a-messy-election/\">article by FiveThirtyEight</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>In California, voters have used mail ballots since 1962 and they&rsquo;ve become increasingly popular: The majority of ballots cast in each of the past four general elections and eight primaries were by mail, according to the Secretary of State&rsquo;s Office <a href=\"https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/historical-absentee/\">website</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an <a href=\"https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/05/08/governor-newsom-issues-executive-order-to-protect-public-health-by-mailing-every-registered-voter-a-ballot-ahead-of-the-november-general-election/\">executive order</a> requiring all counties in the state to send vote-by-mail ballots for the November 3 General Election to all registered voters.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>It was the first such order by a state tied to COVID-19 and concerns about in-person voting. But that doesn&rsquo;t mean California will only vote-by-mail in November.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;We have to pay appropriate attention to providing as many safe in-person voting opportunities on and before Election Day as well,&quot; <a href=\"https://www.capradio.org/articles/2020/05/06/californias-top-elections-official-mail-ballots-for-all-voters-but-some-polls-stay-open/\">Padilla told CapRadio</a> this month.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Does mail voting increase turnout?</strong></p>\n\n<p>We asked Padilla&rsquo;s office for evidence backing his claim. A spokesperson pointed to several reports, including one by Nonprofit Vote and the U.S. Elections Project called <a href=\"https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/america-goes-polls-2018.pdf\">America Goes To The Polls 2018</a>. The groups promote voter participation and research on the election process, respectively.</p>\n\n<p>Their report refers to vote-by-mail as &quot;vote at home.&quot; It offers a look at the 2018 midterm election, including results from &quot;blue states&quot; that tend to favor Democratic candidates, such as Oregon and Washington; &quot;red states&quot; that favor Republicans, such as Utah; and &quot;purple states,&quot; or swing states, such as Colorado.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>It found:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<ul>\n\t<li>\n\t<p>Three of the four Vote at Home States &ndash; Colorado, Oregon, and Washington &ndash; ranked in the top 10 in turnout. These states send all registered voters their ballot two or more weeks in advance and provide secure and convenient options to return it.</p>\n\t</li>\n\t<li>\n\t<p>Utah, the fourth and newest state to implement Vote at Home statewide, led the nation in voter turnout growth over 2014.</p>\n\t</li>\n\t<li>\n\t<p>&nbsp;In the 2018 primaries, turnout in vote at home states outperformed states with traditional poll-based voting by 15.5 percentage points.</p>\n\t</li>\n</ul>\n\n<p>Padilla&rsquo;s spokesperson also cited a <a href=\"https://www.voteathome.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Colorado-2014-voter-turnout-study.pdf\">2017 report by Pantheon Analytics</a>, which produces voting analysis. It found overall voter turnout in Colorado increased 3.3 percent after the state moved to a system where every voter was mailed a ballot starting in 2014.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;While not conclusive, the evidence generated by these analyses, supports the assertion that Colorado&rsquo;s universal vote-by-mail system, likely played a role in increasing turnout,&quot; the report said.</p>\n\n<p>But does this mean adopting vote-by-mail is the true cause of higher turnout? A researcher who authored a prominent new study on the topic says it&rsquo;s too early to tell.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Stanford study&nbsp;</strong></p>\n\n<p>Andrew Hall, a Stanford University political science professor, co-authored a report this month titled, <a href=\"http://www.andrewbenjaminhall.com/Thompson_et_al_VBM.pdf\">Universal Vote-by-Mail Has No Impact on Partisan Turnout or Vote Share</a>.</p>\n\n<p>That study showed evidence that expanding to universal vote-by-mail &quot;has a very modest but positive increase on turnout, and this is consistent with past research on the topic,&quot; Hall said in an email.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Is this a &lsquo;fact&rsquo; though?&quot; Hall added. &quot; I don&#39;t think so, since with more data, we or other researchers might later revise our estimates. And it doesn&#39;t speak to the accuracy of Padilla&#39;s claim, which seems to be about voting by mail more generally, rather than specifically about universal vote by mail.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>What is clear from the Stanford study, and what Padilla may have been arguing in a roundabout way, is that mail voting doesn&rsquo;t favor Democrats over Republicans.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The authors wrote &quot;our paper has a clear takeaway: claims that vote-by-mail fundamentally advantages one party over the other appear overblown.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>That matches with the conclusion in a <em><a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/us/politics/vote-by-mail.html\">New York Times</a> </em>report on how mail voting impacts states from California to Arizona to Nebraska.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;None of these states have seen an appreciable shift favoring Democrats that officials and experts attribute to mail voting,&quot; the <em>Times </em>reported.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Nationwide, many <a href=\"https://www.weirtondailytimes.com/covid-19-the-latest/2020/04/trump-differs-with-gop-allies-on-mail-in-voting/\">Republican election officials</a> have disputed Trump&rsquo;s characterization about mail voting leading to fraud or have <a href=\"https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/bipartisan-support-expanded-mail-voting-2020-elections\">encouraged</a><a href=\"https://slack-redir.net/link?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.brennancenter.org%2Four-work%2Fresearch-reports%2Fbipartisan-support-expanded-mail-voting-2020-elections\"> </a>mail voting as a safe option amid the pandemic.</p>\n\n<p>Trump himself requested a mail ballot for Florida&rsquo;s GOP primary last month and he has voted absentee in previous elections, the Associated Press reported. Still, this month he said &quot;mail in voting is horrible, it&rsquo;s corrupt,&quot; and the Republican National Committee moved to help state parties block expansion of the franchise.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong>Our conclusion&nbsp;</strong></p>\n\n<p>Several studies concluded that states with vote-by-mail saw a modest increase in voter turnout, though they don&rsquo;t directly prove Padilla&rsquo;s claim that this method of voting is responsible for the higher turnout.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>More definitively, the reports show mail voting does not appear to give an advantage to one political party over another.</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-18T16:20:24-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "top-10-uncertainties-about-coronavirus",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Top 10 uncertainties about the coronavirus",
            "entry": "<p>PolitiFact has been fact-checking claims about the coronavirus and COVID-19 since it first appeared. Months later, we know much more about the virus and the disease than we did. But there are still confounding areas of uncertainty.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Basic facts about the virus need to be hedged with caveats and warnings that our knowledge is limited or subject to change. Yet we need to strongly correct misleading and false claims, so sometimes the data limitations get lost in the discussion.</p>\n\n<p>Here, then, is our list of the most pressing uncertainties to keep in mind as we go about our fact-checking work.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">1. How many people have been exposed to the coronavirus.</div>\n\n<p>Yes, there are counts of confirmed cases that the cable news channels feature regularly. But those are only reported cases. We don&rsquo;t know the full extent of how many people have been exposed to the virus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2.</p>\n\n<p>While some people are exposed, get COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus) and end up in the hospital, other people get only mildly sick, and still others carry the virus without any symptoms at all. This means the true number of people who have the virus is larger than the number of reported cases, and <a href=\"https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article242260406.html\">probably much larger</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">2. How widespread the virus is.</div>\n\n<p>If we don&rsquo;t know precisely how many people have the virus, then we also don&rsquo;t know where the people who have it are. Is the coronavirus mostly in big cities, or is it in the suburbs or rural areas? Are some geographic areas hit harder than others, or are they just testing less? We&rsquo;ve talked to sources who have informed guesses, but nobody knows for sure. Also, the virus is on move, so whatever the picture would be today could be quite different in a few weeks.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">3. How contagious the virus is.</div>\n\n<p>The CDC <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html\">says coronavirus spreads</a> in droplets, which suggests you&rsquo;d have to be near an infected person to catch it. But there&rsquo;s nagging evidence that it spreads faster in enclosed spaces or where people work right next to each other (think of nursing homes or meatpacking plants), which suggests it has some potential to become aerosolized or airborne. Though rare, there are discouraging anecdotes of people practicing social distancing who get the virus anyway.</p>\n\n<p>The coronavirus seems to be more contagious than the flu but less contagious than measles. Right now, researchers believe a person with the coronavirus typically spreads it to two or three others. (This is called the virus&rsquo;s <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/23/world/europe/coronavirus-R0-explainer.html\">R0 or &quot;R-naught&quot; factor</a>, and it&rsquo;s 2 to 2.5.) But these are estimates, not hard data.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">4. How lethal the virus is.</div>\n\n<p>If someone is infected with the coronavirus, how <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/07/facebook-posts/facebook-post-shares-flawed-covid-19-survival-stat/\">likely is serious illness leading to death</a>? This question is impossible to accurately answer. While COVID-19 deaths are being reported, we don&rsquo;t have a full count of how many are infected due to testing limitations. Additionally, people who die at home of COVID-19 <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/apr/14/candace-owens/covid-19-skeptics-say-theres-overcount-doctors-fie/\">can be missed</a> in official counts because they wouldn&rsquo;t typically be tested after their deaths for the virus. So it&rsquo;s impossible to know the true mortality rate.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Here&rsquo;s another layer of complexity: There are deaths per identified case, called &quot;case fatality rates.&quot; Then, there are estimates from antibody tests and other models of deaths of everyone infected, called &quot;infection fatality rates.&quot; (Scientists use models to predict flu deaths every year, but the coronavirus is too new and unstudied for that.)</p>\n\n<p>Case fatality rates and infection fatality rates tend to be quite different, and scientists say both numbers have limitations.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">5. How children (and pets) are affected.</div>\n\n<p>At first it seemed that children, for the most part, didn&rsquo;t develop COVID-19 the way adults did, or that their symptoms were much milder. (It&rsquo;s hypothesized that children can spread the virus, so schools were closed.) In recent days, medical authorities have warned that some children were experiencing a <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/14/health/pediatric-coronavirus-syndrome-multisystem-health/index.html\">multisystem inflammatory syndrome</a>, similar to Kawasaki disease, after exposure to the virus. But this syndrome still seems to be rare. How rare? We don&rsquo;t know.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/mar/13/we-answered-your-questions-coronavirus-seasonality/\">As for pets</a>, the CDC says that there is no evidence they play a significant role in spreading the virus. But it does appear that the virus can spread from people to animals in some situations. But again, more studies are needed.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">6. How widely symptoms vary.</div>\n\n<p>When the pandemic started, <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html\">the CDC described</a> the basic symptoms of COVID-19 as cough, shortness of breath and fever. Since then, they&rsquo;ve added chills, muscle pain, sore throat and loss of taste or smell, and they note that people may have a few symptoms but not all of them. Other less common symptoms have been reported as well, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.</p>\n\n<p>Finally, there have been other anecdotal reports of people who&rsquo;ve tested positive but have still other symptoms, such as swollen toes or mental confusion. As time goes by, the disease has shown that it can express itself in many different ways.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">7. Why COVID-19 hits some parts of the world harder than others.</div>\n\n<p>Italy and New York City have been hit very hard with widespread infections and many cases of COVID-19. But other parts of the world haven&rsquo;t. Why is that? Is it climate, or urban density, or older populations? There aren&rsquo;t really clear-cut answers here. <a href=\"https://www.tampabay.com/news/health/2020/05/10/how-florida-slowed-coronavirus-everyone-stayed-home-before-they-were-told-to/\">Recent reporting</a> shows that people in Florida started socially distancing before state officials told them to, which also have contributed to lower numbers of infections.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">8. If there will be a second wave in the fall.</div>\n\n<p>One of the infamous hallmarks of the flu pandemic of 1918 is that people thought it was over after it hit in spring, but then the flu came roaring back in the fall. Will the coronavirus behave the same way? The evidence points in different directions, and there&rsquo;s no clear answer. There&rsquo;s some evidence that the coronavirus transmits more easily in cooler temperatures with lower humidity, but a lot depends on how many people have already contracted the virus and which social distancing measures are being observed.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">9. How immunity to the virus works.</div>\n\n<p>If you get chickenpox once, it&rsquo;s unlikely you&rsquo;ll ever get it again, because getting it once confers long-term immunity. But obviously not all diseases work that way. You can catch the common cold over and over again, and to avoid the flu, doctors recommend a flu shot every year.</p>\n\n<p>If you get COVID-19, it&rsquo;s not clear if you can get it again or if you get immunity for a certain length of time. Public health officials say determining the answer will be important to ending social distancing.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>If people don&rsquo;t become immune to the coronavirus after catching it, then it might be hard to create an effective vaccine. Right now, scientists are seeing preliminary evidence that an infection confers at least some immunity, but they don&rsquo;t know how much. One of the biggest challenges for any vaccine is that it actually works; some vaccines never make it past clinical testing because they don&rsquo;t actually give people immunity.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">10. When a vaccine will be available.</div>\n\n<p>Officials keep saying that a vaccine could be available sometime <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/12/how-close-coronavirus-vaccine/\">in 2021</a> &mdash; but that&rsquo;s only if everything goes right. If researchers run into problems, for example with the vaccine&rsquo;s efficacy or with side effects among patients, that timeline would get longer. The 12- to 18-month timeline is an optimistic assessment that might not pan out.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-18T11:28:05-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "week-fact-checking-riding-planes-michael-flynn",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "The week in fact-checking: Riding in planes, Michael Flynn",
            "entry": "<p><strong>&quot;The Week in Fact-checking&quot; compiles short summaries of our best work; the links will take you to our full reports. Want this report early and via email? <a href=\"http://www.politifact.com/sign-up\">Sign up here</a>.&nbsp;</strong></p>\n\n<p><strong>This week:</strong> <em>COVID on a plane &hellip; Pelosi wrongly blames GOP for Illinois budget problems &hellip; Obama not first to criticize his successor &hellip; Is an HPV vaccine more deadly than COVID? Nope &hellip; Michael Flynn&rsquo;s reversal of fortune &hellip; No, the Supreme Court didn&rsquo;t say stay-at-home orders are illegal</em></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What&rsquo;s the risk of getting COVID-19 from air travel?&nbsp;</div>\n\n<p>During an appearance on the Sunday news show &quot;Face the Nation,&quot; Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said it was safe for Americans to fly during the coronavirus epidemic.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;I don&rsquo;t think the risk on an airplane is any greater risk than anywhere else, and in fact, you just look at the layered approach that we use. It&rsquo;s as safe as an environment as you&rsquo;re going to find,&quot; said Kelly.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Is it as safe as any other environment? We rated his claim <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/11/gary-kelly/southwest-ceos-boast-about-airplanes-low-covid-ris/\">Mostly False</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>All in all, Kelly has some valid points about the safety of airplanes right now. But he also overplayed his hand.</p>\n\n<p>Our key findings:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&bull; Airplanes have highly effective ventilation systems. That makes them safer than other enclosed modes of transportation, like subways or buses.</p>\n\n<p>&bull; But studies show that infectious disease transmission can occur on airplanes, particularly if you are seated next to someone who is carrying an illness.</p>\n\n<p>&bull; It&rsquo;s difficult to maintain social distancing on an airplane &mdash; think of someone walking by on the way to the bathroom &mdash; especially compared with being at home.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/11/gary-kelly/southwest-ceos-boast-about-airplanes-low-covid-ris/\">Read our full fact-check for more details</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&mdash; <em>Victoria Knight, Kaiser Health News</em></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Fact-checks of the week</div>\n\n<p><strong>Nancy Pelosi wrong on Illinois budget troubles: </strong>The Democratic speaker of the House said that Illinois &quot;got into fiscal problems because of a Republican governor who was governor there&quot; before current Gov. J.B. Pritzker. <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/08/nancy-pelosi/pelosi-exaggerates-former-republican-governors-rol/\">That rates Mostly False</a>. Illinois&rsquo; financial situation did worsen during Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s term. The state operated without a spending plan for an unprecedented two years, but he wasn&rsquo;t solely to blame. What&rsquo;s more, the state was already teetering on the brink when he took office because of decisions made by leaders from both parties dating back decades.</p>\n\n<p><strong>Obama not the only former president with something to say:</strong> Former President Barack Obama called the Trump administration&rsquo;s response to COVID-19 &quot;an absolute chaotic disaster.&quot; That aggravated current President Donald Trump, so Trump retweeted a message saying Obama is the first ex-president to speak ill of his successor. <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/11/tweets/obama-isnt-first-ex-president-speak-ill-his-succes/\">That claim rates False</a>. From Hoover to Truman, Ford to Carter and beyond, ex-presidents have criticized the person who followed them into office. <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/11/tweets/obama-isnt-first-ex-president-speak-ill-his-succes/\">Read our brief history</a> of the presidential predecessor dis.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong>What&rsquo;s more dangerous: COVID-19 or HPV vaccine? </strong>Iowa state Rep. Jeff Shipley had this warning on Twitter for young people: &quot;Someone should tell them they have a greater chance of being killed by the HPV vaccine than COVID-19.&quot; <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/12/jeff-shipley/covid-19-vs-hpv-vaccine-covid-more-deadly/\">That claim rates Pants on Fire</a>. Shipley admitted he made it up. Numbers show no deaths in Iowa from the HPV vaccine, while COVID-19 deaths among young people are well-documented.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What&rsquo;s going on with Michael Flynn?&nbsp;</div>\n\n<p>After a three-year-plus legal saga involving Russia and the 2016 election, the Justice Department <a href=\"https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/justice-department-drops-case-against-ex-trump-adviser-michael-flynn-n1202286\">said it was recommending</a> that the judge dismiss the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The filing said that a key interview of Flynn did not have &quot;a legitimate investigative basis&quot; and therefore the department does not consider Flynn&rsquo;s statements from the interview to be &quot;material even if untrue.&quot;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Flynn had held conversations with senior Russian officials about lifting sanctions on Russia, then he denied to federal law enforcement that those conversations had taken place.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Trump praised the developments in the Flynn case, telling reporters in the Oval Office that Flynn &quot;was an innocent man. He is a great gentleman.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>But the Justice Department&rsquo;s decision to reverse course on a prosecution that had already produced a guilty plea stunned legal experts.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;It is very unusual to dismiss a case after a defendant has pled guilty,&quot; said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. &quot;I can only imagine that being justified if there is evidence that the guilty plea was coerced or the defense attorney failed in some epic way to properly inform their client, and neither of those things are at issue here. The elements of the crime were proven and agreed to by a defendant with good lawyers and no signs of coercion.&quot;</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/08/closer-look-michael-flynns-reversal-legal-fortune/\">Our story summarized other opinions</a> from legal experts, who said the move by Trump&rsquo;s Justice Department was highly unusual and seemed politically motivated.</p>\n\n<p>It will now be up to the judge, Emmet Sullivan, to decide whether to grant the government&rsquo;s request that the case be dismissed in a way that it cannot be revived in the future. On May 12, Sullivan said he intended to consider third-party opinions on the case before making a decision.</p>\n\n<p>&mdash; <em>Louis Jacobson</em></p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Pants on Fire</div>\n\n<p>Do you smell smoke?&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Here&#39;s your Pants on Fire fact-check of the week:&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/13/facebook-posts/no-s-not-us-supreme-court-ruling/\">Under an 1866 Supreme Court ruling, stay-at-home orders are illegal and can be disregarded with impunity</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Actually, no Supreme Court ruling says that.</p>\n\n<p>See what else we&#39;ve rated <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/rulings/pants-fire/\">Pants on Fire</a> this week.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">In case you missed it</div>\n\n<p>If you were on social media last week, there&rsquo;s a good chance you&rsquo;ve seen someone share &quot;Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind COVID-19,&quot; a 26-minute video about the coronavirus pandemic. We debunked eight separate claims from the video, which is full of inaccurate conspiracy theories. <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/08/fact-checking-plandemic-documentary-full-false-con/\">Read our story to see the 8 things &quot;Plandemic&quot; gets wrong</a>.&nbsp;</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-15T16:09:05-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "fact-checking-california-reopen-protest-video",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Fact-checking a California reopen protest video",
            "entry": "<p>Protests calling for state and federal governments to reopen have become a source of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"http://archive.is/IT5kr\">A May 7 clip</a> on Facebook shows a doctor giving a six-minute speech about California&rsquo;s response to the coronavirus pandemic. In it, the doctor makes several misleading claims about the severity of the virus and the efficacy of social distancing and face masks.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;My name is Dr. Jeff Barke and I&rsquo;m here representing thousands of physicians across the country whose voices are being silenced because we don&rsquo;t agree with the mainstream media and the experts who are telling us what to do,&quot; he says at the start of the video.</p>\n\n<p>The article was flagged as part of Facebook&rsquo;s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536?helpref=related\">partnership</a> with Facebook.)&nbsp;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p><em>(Screenshot from Facebook)</em></p>\n\n<p>Using Google Maps, we determined that the location of the video is the steps of the Riverside County government office in downtown Riverside, Calif. Protesters <a href=\"https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/after-hours-of-debate-riverside-county-officials-decide-to-postpone-reopening-vote\">congregated</a> in the city, which is about 55 miles east of Los Angeles, on May 5 to demand county supervisors lift local stay-at-home orders. Barke is a physician who runs a primary care concierge service in Newport Beach, Calif.</p>\n\n<p>While some of Barke&rsquo;s claims are accurate, several of the claims are misleading or false. We fact-checked five of them below.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">&lsquo;What if quarantining the healthy doesn&rsquo;t save lives?&rsquo;</div>\n\n<p>This is inaccurate. <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/06/laura-ingraham/laura-ingraham-wrong-about-no-real-scientific-basi/\">We rated</a> a similar claim False.</p>\n\n<p>The science behind social distancing <a href=\"https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/people-are-strange/202003/why-should-we-believe-the-science-behind-social-distancing\">is clear</a>: The novel coronavirus primarily spreads via person-to-person contact. So the less contact you have, the less likely you are to spread or contract the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>That&rsquo;s the reasoning behind several state stay-at-home orders, <a href=\"https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/nCOV2019.aspx\">including California&rsquo;s</a>. And, while <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/01/tony-evers/has-safer-home-wisconsin-saved-300-lives/\">it&rsquo;s difficult to assess</a> the exact impact of social distancing policies, data and preliminary research suggest they&rsquo;re working.</p>\n\n<p>According to numbers <a href=\"https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-coronavirus-cases-tracking-outbreak/\">published</a> by the Los Angeles Times, the seven-day average of coronavirus deaths per day has remained relatively constant since mid-April. Gov. Gavin Newsom <a href=\"https://www.kqed.org/science/1959566/california-gov-gavin-newsom-orders-state-to-shelter-in-place\">ordered</a> a statewide shelter-in-place order March 19.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong><em>RELATED:</em> <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/mar/16/stop-coronavirus-its-tracks-heres-your-guide-5-deg/\">To stop coronavirus in its tracks, here&rsquo;s your guide to 5 degrees of separation</a></strong></p>\n\n<p>Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used a mathematical model to measure the effectiveness of social distancing measures in a mid-sized American city like Seattle. An <a href=\"https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/8/20-1093_article\">early release</a> of the upcoming study notes that &quot;while social distancing interventions were in place, 20% of new cases and most hospitalizations and deaths were averted, even with modest reductions in contact among adults.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Still, social distancing and self-isolation are just stopgap measures until there is a treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;It&rsquo;s important to emphasize that we&rsquo;re not out of the woods yet,&quot; said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in <a href=\"https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/dr-anthony-fauci-cdc-director-senate-testimony-transcript-may-12\">his May 12 testimony</a> to the Senate. &quot;We need to stay vigilant with social distancing. It remains an imperative.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">&lsquo;What if wearing a mask in public is not effective?&rsquo;</div>\n\n<p>This is inaccurate. Official guidance from public health experts says wearing a mask in public can prevent the spread of the coronavirus.</p>\n\n<p>In an email to PolitiFact, Barke sent us two articles as evidence for his claim: <a href=\"https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/30/world/coronavirus-who-masks-recommendation-trnd/index.html\">one</a> from CNN and <a href=\"https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/05/12/flashback_march_2020_fauci_says_theres_no_reason_to_be_walking_around_with_a_mask.html\">one</a> from Real Clear Politics. Both highlight how, in the early days of the pandemic, public health officials did not advise healthy people to wear face masks because there were shortages for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.</p>\n\n<p>However, that guidance has changed.</p>\n\n<p>The CDC now <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html\">advises</a> anyone who goes out in public to wear a mask. Since infected people <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html\">may not show symptoms</a> for up to 14 days, the goal is to prevent them from unwittingly spreading the coronavirus through coughs and sneezes.</p>\n\n<p>Face masks do not block some very fine particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs or sneezes. That means they&rsquo;re not a reliable way of preventing someone who&rsquo;s wearing one from contracting the airborne coronavirus particles and getting COVID.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong><em>RELATED:</em> <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/01/facebook-posts/fight-COVID-CDC-now-says-wear-masks-in-public/\">To fight COVID-19, CDC now says wear masks in public</a></strong></p>\n\n<p>But, since masks do prevent the spread of larger respiratory droplets, they are effective at preventing someone from spreading the virus to other people. Different kinds of face masks <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/apr/01/are-homemade-face-masks-effective-against-covid-19/\">offer varying degrees of protection</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Many health care providers use N95 respirators, which filter out at least 95% of airborne particles. Generic surgical masks are also effective at blocking respiratory droplets.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>However, the CDC <a href=\"https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/personal-protective-equipment-infection-control/n95-respirators-and-surgical-masks-face-masks\">does not advise</a> the American public to use either kind of mask as a COVID-19 prevention measure, since there have been shortages around the country. Instead, <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html\">it advises</a> people to wear cloth face coverings in public.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Given the current crisis, and lacking an alternative, many layers of densely woven fabric would be the most effective, because it allows for lots of voids in the layers where particles can be trapped,&quot; Richard Peltier, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/apr/01/are-homemade-face-masks-effective-against-covid-19/\">previously told</a> PolitiFact.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">&lsquo;Never in the history of this great republic have we quarantined the healthy&rsquo;</div>\n\n<p>This is inaccurate. While official federal policy on social distancing <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/politics/social-distancing-coronavirus.html\">is new</a> to the coronavirus pandemic, similar measures were taken at the local level to contain the spread of the 1918 influenza. And research shows they worked.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/208354\">A 2007 study</a> conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and the CDC found that the greatest reductions in weekly death rates due to the influenza occurred in cities that implemented measures like quarantine, self-isolation, school closures and social distancing. New York City was one example.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Typically, individuals diagnosed with influenza were isolated in hospitals or makeshift facilities, while those suspected to have contact with an ill person (but who were not yet ill themselves) were quarantined in their homes with an official placard declaring that location to be under quarantine,&quot; the authors wrote. &quot;New York City mounted an early and sustained response to the epidemic and experienced the lowest death rate on the Eastern seaboard.&quot;</p>\n\n<p><strong><em>RELATED:</em> <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/06/laura-ingraham/laura-ingraham-wrong-about-no-real-scientific-basi/\">Laura Ingraham wrong about &#39;no real scientific basis&#39; for social distancing</a></strong></p>\n\n<p>Another study, published by the <a href=\"https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/104/18/7582.full.pdf\">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, came to a similar conclusion. The authors found that cities that employed early, layered interventions had death rates 50% lower than cities that didn&rsquo;t take similar steps.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Non-pharmaceutical interventions have been shown to help reduce the overall number of cases and virus-related mortality,&quot; David Hamer, professor of global health and medicine at Boston University, <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/06/laura-ingraham/laura-ingraham-wrong-about-no-real-scientific-basi/\">told</a> PolitiFact.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">&lsquo;The fatality rate of this virus is in the ballpark of a bad seasonal influenza&rsquo;</div>\n\n<p>This is misleading. While it&rsquo;s hard to estimate the precise fatality rate of COVID-19, public health experts have said it appears to be higher than the seasonal flu.</p>\n\n<p>As evidence to support his claim, Barke sent us three links: <a href=\"https://www.biospace.com/article/multiple-studies-suggest-covid-19-mortality-rate-may-be-lower-than-expected-/\">one</a> to a post on a job site for biotechnology jobs, <a href=\"https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/why-are-covid-19-death-rates-so-hard-to-calculate-experts-weigh-in\">one</a> to a post from Medical News Today and <a href=\"https://justthenews.com/politics-policy/coronavirus/fauci-offers-more-conservative-death-rate-academic-article-public-virus\">one</a> to a story on a website called Just the News. While they all address the difficulty of nailing down an exact fatality rate for the coronavirus, none of them prove Barke&rsquo;s claim.</p>\n\n<p><a href=\"https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality\">According to</a> researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the case fatality rate of COVID-19 is 6% in the U.S. They derived that statistic by dividing the number of deaths by the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.</p>\n\n<p>That&rsquo;s an imperfect measurement, as many mild cases of COVID-19 go unreported. If those cases were counted, the case fatality rate would decrease. But, as <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/apr/14/candace-owens/covid-19-skeptics-say-theres-overcount-doctors-fie/\">we&rsquo;ve reported</a>, the death toll <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2020/04/27/covid-19-death-toll-undercounted/?arc404=true&amp;itid=lk_inline_manual_12\">may also be</a> <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/28/us/coronavirus-death-toll-total.html\">higher</a> than we know.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><strong><em>RELATED:</em><a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/apr/22/mandy-cohen/covid-19-americas-leading-cause-death/\"> Is COVID-19 America&#39;s leading cause of death?</a></strong></p>\n\n<p>Given that uncertainty, there is no indication that the coronavirus has a similar fatality rate to the flu, which usually hovers under 0.1% and is calculated annually using a <a href=\"https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/how-cdc-estimates.htm#References\">mathematical model</a>. Available data suggest that it is more lethal than the flu.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;It is surprisingly mild only to those who were not listening to competent epidemiologists, and it is in fact considerably worse than seasonal flu,&quot; Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/may/04/tucker-carlson/tucker-carlson-says-coronavirus-isnt-deadly-we-tho/\">previously told</a> PolitiFact.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">&lsquo;As we see unemployment increase to Depression levels, we also see suicide increase, we see domestic violence increase, we see child abuse increase, we see alcohol and drug abuse increase&rsquo;</div>\n\n<p>These claims are accurate.</p>\n\n<p>In April, the U.S. unemployment rate <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/08/april-2020-jobs-report/\">jumped</a> to 14.7% &mdash;&nbsp;the highest level since the Great Depression. Businesses around the country were forced to close their doors to comply with stay-at-home orders, and 20.5 million people lost their jobs.</p>\n\n<p>That economic uncertainty <a href=\"https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/05/04/mental-health-coronavirus/\">has correlated</a> with a spike in mental health concerns across the country.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a Texas nonprofit, <a href=\"https://www.texasstateofmind.org/uploads/whitepapers/COVID-MHSUDImpacts.pdf\">created models</a> that show, as the economy continues to worsen because of the pandemic, suicides and drug overdoses will also tick up. That&rsquo;s because researchers <a href=\"https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(20)30141-3/fulltext\">have established</a> a link between economic instability and mental health problems.</p>\n\n<p>Experts also say the coronavirus pandemic has created the circumstances for an increase in domestic violence and child abuse.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The New York Times <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/coronavirus-domestic-violence.html\">reported</a> on how hotlines and authorities around the world are getting more domestic violence calls. The American Psychological Association <a href=\"https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/domestic-violence-child-abuse\">says</a> that&rsquo;s because &quot;stress and social isolation can raise the risk of domestic violence.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Before the pandemic, a survivor or victim could flee a violent situation by staying with a family member, going to a shelter or filing a protective order with the police,&quot; the organization wrote. &quot;For many, such options aren&rsquo;t easily available right now.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>That risk extends to instances of child abuse, which organizations like the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network have said are rising as children are isolated with their abusers. RAINN saw a 22% increase in calls to its hotline by the end of March, <a href=\"https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/28/847251985/child-sexual-abuse-reports-are-on-the-rise-amid-lockdown-orders\">NPR reported</a>.</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-14T18:06:31-04:00"
        },
        {
            "slug": "michael-flynns-unmasking-what-you-need-know",
            "personalities": [],
            "headline": "Michael Flynn’s unmasking: What you need to know",
            "entry": "<p>Most of the time, few Americans give much thought to &quot;unmasking,&quot; a practice whereby senior officials can request the identities of Americans who show up in U.S. intelligence reports and intercepts.</p>\n\n<p>But Republicans have begun using it as a weapon against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.</p>\n\n<p>On May 13, two Republican senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, released a <a href=\"https://www.foxnews.com/politics/read-documents-listing-names-of-obama-era-officials-who-sought-to-unmask-michael-flynn\">document</a> that includes a list of all the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking that produced Flynn&rsquo;s name between Nov. 8, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017. It was prepared for acting Director of National Intelligence Rick Grenell.</p>\n\n<p>The document&rsquo;s release comes as the Justice Department <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/08/closer-look-michael-flynns-reversal-legal-fortune/\">seeks to end the prosecution</a> of former Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.</p>\n\n<p>Flynn <a href=\"https://www.politifact.com/article/2018/dec/05/detailing-michael-flynns-turn-trump-mueller/\">resigned</a> from his position in Trump&rsquo;s administration in 2017 over contacts he&rsquo;d had with senior Russian officials that may have addressed lifting sanctions on Russia that had been imposed by Trump&rsquo;s predecessor, Barack Obama. Flynn had denied that he talked with the Russians even though he had.</p>\n\n<p>Eventually, Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI and became a cooperating witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller&rsquo;s investigation, which probed Russian election interference and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.</p>\n\n<p>But Flynn later hired new lawyers who took an aggressive posture, seeking internal FBI memos and, eventually, a dismissal of charges. After Attorney General William Barr asked Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review the case, Jensen concluded that a dismissal of the case was warranted, and Barr agreed.</p>\n\n<p>The Justice Department now argues that the FBI had no basis to continue investigating Flynn after failing to find illegal acts. Flynn&rsquo;s answers during the FBI interview were equivocal, not false, and weren&rsquo;t relevant to the investigation, the department said.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>The most notable name on the newly released list of officials who requested an unmasking is Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was then the vice president. And the political parties have sharply different takes on what the list means.</p>\n\n<p>Biden spokesman Andrew Bates <a href=\"https://twitter.com/BoKnowsNews/status/1260685018982047745/photo/1\">said that</a> that &quot;these documents simply indicate the breadth and depth of concern across the American government&quot; and that the declassified documents &quot;confirm that all normal procedures were followed.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>However, many Republicans, including the <a href=\"https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/johnson-grassley-release-information-about-unmasking-americans\">senators</a> that released the documents, say the list of names forms the core of an Obama administration conspiracy to target Flynn and undercut the incoming national security adviser. Grassley said the document&rsquo;s release means the &quot;focus on these issues is even more important now.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>We wanted to explain what unmasking is and fact-check some of the claims about it from both sides.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">What is unmasking?</div>\n\n<p>Senior government officials can request the identity of an American citizen who has appeared unnamed in intelligence reports. The idea is that national security officials, at least in some cases, need to know the identity in order to fully understand the intelligence being presented to them. That process is called &quot;unmasking.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>Usually, American identities are <a href=\"https://www.intelligence.gov/assets/documents/702%20Documents/oversight/ODNI_ICPG_107_1_Unmasking_Procedures_01919OCR.pdf\">protected</a> in reports on the communications, such as intercepted telephone calls, involving people under investigation or surveillance. This is called &quot;minimization,&quot; and it&rsquo;s partly why data collection from <a href=\"https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Government%20Surveillance%20Factsheet.pdf\">Section 215</a> of the Patriot Act is considered legal and not unduly intrusive. Americans&rsquo; communication is not monitored unless they are under investigation, but it&rsquo;s possible to be caught up unintentionally if they communicate with someone who is under investigation or a foreign individual under surveillance.</p>\n\n<p>The new document lists unmasking requests that produced Flynn&rsquo;s name from intelligence collected by the National Security Agency, though surveillance from other agencies can be subject to unmasking as well.</p>\n\n<p>It&rsquo;s also important to note that the document released by the senators did not find any wrongdoing in the requests for unmasking. The document says, &quot;Each individual (on the list) was an authorized recipient of the original report and the unmasking was approved through NSA&rsquo;s standard process, which includes a review of the justification for the request.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Were top Obama officials including Biden given access to Flynn&rsquo;s name through unmasking?</div>\n\n<p>Biden and others were offered access to Flynn&rsquo;s name through the unmasking process, according to the document released May 13.</p>\n\n<p>Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was essentially accurate when he said that &quot;Biden and more than a dozen Obama administration officials requested and received the power to unmask Flynn.&rsquo;&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p>In addition to Biden, the newly unclassified document includes almost two dozen other officials in senior Obama administration positions and a few more that have had their names redacted.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Several of the officials on this list were well-known figures within the administration, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, FBI Director James Comey, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Others were more obscure.</p>\n\n<p>The only potential inaccuracy we could find in Paul&rsquo;s remark is that some of these requests may have been made in the officials&rsquo; names by aides, <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/us/politics/unmasking-flynn.html\">according to the New York Times</a>.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>Michael Morell, who served as CIA director earlier in Obama&rsquo;s presidency, told the Times that in some cases, requests logged as coming from a senior official may instead have been requested by an officer tasked with briefing that senior official.</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">Does the unmasking list show that top officials &quot;knew&quot; that concerns about Flynn were a &quot;lie&quot;?</div>\n\n<p>The pro-Trump social media personalities Diamond and Silk drew this conclusion in a <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/DiamondandSilk/posts/1712221705593602\">Facebook post</a> that featured images of the list of Obama administration officials:</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Obama knew. Clinton knew. Biden knew. Comey knew. Brennan knew. McCabe knew. Strzok knew. Clapper knew. Rosenstein knew. FBI knew. DOJ knew. CIA knew. State knew. They all knew it was a lie, a witch-hunt, a scandal, a plot, a conspiracy, a hoax. <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/obamagate?__eep__=6&amp;source=feed_text&amp;epa=HASHTAG&amp;__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDttsHjJ9-6Hhfhe1kglNNKU1rJWLYSv_l7f70uVnch5Y6K1T2xXktgba3Q4dhsJHup1y_1fUFw0sYR9kdxlZTAZp7ELic3pQU_t2m_nBs3_86dYWvMDYeNVFqR6JCwv0zk2QQvQrhUhg5F473Wz3fL6Gc3nv2dRP7jGVXPWdgzTpNuYKd18FUC7f9DxWPGRqpfoUF33wsX9IqaC-ZEr4mPrzhsqG2HC6K_R1KrekKmPjRiUEKJ6BKvIQBqsPPSBej4IXZ9tVKz5KeQNvlaE7tjFZvytEQbcu5hWJMv1dLZfR236VEQ5sRFePkDsCOL3XozhAV8CCVFgmqegjzAmLfO3A&amp;__tn__=%2ANK-R\">#ObamaGate</a> <a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/subpoenaobama?__eep__=6&amp;source=feed_text&amp;epa=HASHTAG&amp;__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARDttsHjJ9-6Hhfhe1kglNNKU1rJWLYSv_l7f70uVnch5Y6K1T2xXktgba3Q4dhsJHup1y_1fUFw0sYR9kdxlZTAZp7ELic3pQU_t2m_nBs3_86dYWvMDYeNVFqR6JCwv0zk2QQvQrhUhg5F473Wz3fL6Gc3nv2dRP7jGVXPWdgzTpNuYKd18FUC7f9DxWPGRqpfoUF33wsX9IqaC-ZEr4mPrzhsqG2HC6K_R1KrekKmPjRiUEKJ6BKvIQBqsPPSBej4IXZ9tVKz5KeQNvlaE7tjFZvytEQbcu5hWJMv1dLZfR236VEQ5sRFePkDsCOL3XozhAV8CCVFgmqegjzAmLfO3A&amp;__tn__=%2ANK-R\">#SubpoenaObama</a>.&quot;</p>\n\n<p>This assertion is inaccurate in several ways.</p>\n\n<p>First, four of the officials on the Diamond and Silk list aren&rsquo;t actually included in the unmasking list. One is Hillary Clinton, who was a losing presidential candidate by then and had no position in the U.S. government. Also not on the list are former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, and Rod Rosenstein, who was at the time U.S. Attorney for Maryland and later became deputy attorney general.</p>\n\n<p>Second, Diamond and Silk ignore a key sentence of the unmasking document &mdash; that &quot;while the principals are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information.&quot;&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p><img src=\"https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/RNHF53VIoNBybvc_1CupH-twMPQZAM3RJxMN22CaLTd3JzUSlSg29qz1_ClgJ0zpu8lFgSEfH1eRj58yLUJT-Bpo0MkUCDuIUBjBHqtG3mSYpDgWyd4ILcCHKjdQGQ9ZvpNgw-E6\"></p>\n\n<p>Third, there is no guarantee that Flynn would have been directly targeted by these requests. Some of the requests may have involved inquiries about foreign officials who were talking about Flynn, the Times <a href=\"https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/us/politics/unmasking-flynn.html\">reported</a>.</p>\n\n<p>Finally, requesting an unmasking does not prove that any of these officials &quot;knew&quot; that concerns about Flynn were a &quot;lie.&quot; All it meant is that they were able to see the raw intelligence with a name attached so they could better assess it.</p>\n\n<p>Experts say that there&rsquo;s a strong argument that the unmasking inquiries were justified.</p>\n\n<p>&quot;Given what we know thus far, I just don&rsquo;t see how the unmasking requests in this context are anything out of the ordinary,&quot; said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who specializes in national security law. &quot;It hardly seems unreasonable, given what was in the intelligence reports, that senior government officials would&rsquo;ve wanted to know the identity of the unnamed U.S. person in order to understand the significance of the intercepts.&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"pf_subheadline\">How unusual is unmasking?</div>\n\n<p>Former Obama National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor <a href=\"https://twitter.com/TVietor08/status/1260649307067174915?s=20\">tweeted</a>, &quot;The people who &lsquo;unmasked&rsquo; Flynn are top national security aides. It&#39;s literally their job to understand intel to help make informed decisions. If the DNI is suggesting unmasking is wrong, why did the Trump admin unmask identities 17,000 times in 2018?&quot;</p>\n\n<div class=\"artembed\">See Figure 3 on PolitiFact.com</div>\n\n<p>The numbers Vietor cites are basically accurate, according to data <a href=\"https://www.dni.gov/files/CLPT/documents/2019_ASTR_for_CY2018.pdf\">released</a> <a href=\"https://www.dni.gov/files/CLPT/documents/2020_ASTR_for_CY2019_FINAL.pdf\">annually</a> by the Director of National Intelligence.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>As those reports show, there were 9,217 unmasking requests made of the National Security Agency between September 2015 and August 2016, and 9,529 in calendar year 2017.</p>\n\n<p>The number rose to 16,721 in calendar year 2018 and 10,012 in calendar year 2019.</p>\n\n<p><img src=\"https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/Tc7DU7s6mnFmGOT8NE7zhGG04_QItG6WHgHi8JPCp6DHdfdN9YlwCLnYlLKP8pkL97bI0WeLNmplHLrGtN86Vz8cUQ1YZ7dxYNTPGW_Z6IoGFhkUAy9vkxb78o1T0jBCEVSeSCP9\"></p>\n\n<p>This data suggests two points.&nbsp;</p>\n\n<p>First, unmasking is not an unusual practice; on average, more than two dozen requests are made every day somewhere in the government.</p>\n\n<p>Second, the number of unmasking requests actually rose under the Trump administration, substantially over the late-Obama-era baseline in 2018 and more modestly over that baseline in 2019.</p>",
            "publication_date": "2020-05-14T18:00:11-04:00"
        }
    ]
}