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Donald Trump's speech on the Orlando shooting, fact-checked
Linda Qiu
By Linda Qiu June 17, 2016

Following the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump delivered a forceful but rambling speech on terrorism and immigration.

In the speech, Trump repeated his call for banning Muslims from entering the United States, rebuked President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for their perceived weaknesses, and emphasized his foresight.

The speech was panned on the left and right. While the lasting impact of Trump’s comments on the election remains to be seen, they provide insight into the basis of Trump’s controversial and racially charged proposals. While some of his points were accurate, many were off base, some wildly so.

Here’s PolitiFact’s guide to 23 claims in Trump’s pivotal terrorism speech, which he delivered June 13 in New Hampshire.

"The killer, whose name I will not use, or ever say, was born an Afghan of Afghan parents who immigrated to the United States."

The Orlando shooter was born in the United States; Trump likely stumbled over his own remarks here. His prepared statement did not state that Omar Mateen was born outside the United States. Records show Mateen was born to Afghan parents in New York in 1986.

"The immigration laws of the United States give the president powers to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons."

This is largely accurate. U.S. law does give the president the authority to deny admission to those deemed "detrimental to the interests of the United States." Past presidents have exercised this power — for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 or President Obama’s 2011 proclamation suspending entry for those linked to war crimes.

But there’s one caveat. As our friends at the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker explained, "the power has not been tested in the way that Trump proposes" as he’s suggesting banning a quarter of the global population or more.

"Even our own FBI Director has admitted that we cannot effectively check the backgrounds of the people we are letting into America."

We rated a similar claim Mostly False. FBI Director Comey has said he can’t personally vet every single refugee, but he never said the government can’t do it.

Trump has a point that Comey has said "there is no risk-free process" given the information gaps and challenges, particularly in conflict zones in Syria. But Comey also stated there is an "effective way to touch all of our databases and resources to figure out what we know about individuals" and the system "gives us high confidence."

"All of the September 11th hijackers were issued visas."

This is accurate. Eighteen out of the 19 hijackers were issued tourist visas, and one obtained a student visa.

"Large numbers of Somali refugees in Minnesota have tried to join ISIS."

Trump is being hyperbolic. In 2015, the FBI arrested nine Somali-American men from Minneapolis for allegedly planning to join ISIS — not exactly a "large number" for a state home to  21,000 Somalis. Six have pled guilty, and three others were deemed guilty by a jury in early June.

"The Boston Bombers came here through political asylum."

This is true, but the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, immigrated as young children. After their parents fled Chechnya, the family arrived in the United States on tourist visas and then applied for asylum.

"Immigration from Afghanistan into the United States has increased nearly fivefold in just one year."

The United States granted legal permanent resident status to 2,196 Afghans in 2013, and 10,527 in 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security. That’s about five times as many in one year.

"According to Pew Research, 99 percent of the people in Afghanistan support oppressive Sharia law."

We rated this claim Mostly True. The figure is correct, though Pew told us the phrase "oppressive" was Trump’s addition. However, Afghan Muslims were not unanimous in their interpretations of Sharia law or their views on whom Sharia law should apply to. Polls in other Middle East countries also yield different results.

Clinton’s "plan is to disarm law-abiding Americans, abolishing the Second Amendment, and leaving only the bad guys and terrorists with guns."

Trump has repeatedly accused Clinton of wanting to abolish the Second Amendment, and it continues to be False.

Clinton has never said or suggested that this is her view. In fact, she’s consistently said she wants to protect the right to bear arms while enacting measures to prevent gun violence.

Critics say Trump’s claim is backed by Clinton’s comments on gun buyback programs and the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment, but these are cherry-picked and a matter of interpretation — an interpretation that says "distorts the facts."

Trump, the Post’s Fact Checker pointed out, once also supported an assault weapons ban and slightly longer waiting period for background checks

The Senate Subcommittee on Immigration has already identified hundreds of immigrants charged with terrorist activities inside the United States since September 11th.

This is a murky claim. Subcommittee chair Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., wouldn’t comment on the record when we asked him about Trump’s claim. The evidence available isn’t clear enough for us to rate it on the Truth-O-Meter.

The New America Foundation, a think tank, estimated at least 139 immigrants who were implicated in jihad-inspired domestic terrorist activity. But experts told us Trump is drawing a questionable conclusion if he’s using this as evidence for his proposed Muslim ban.

Most domestic terrorists were either born in the United States (like the Fort Hood, San Bernardino and Orlando shooters), or came here at a very young age (like the Boston Marathon bombers and Chattanooga shooter).

What’s more, the number of jihadist terrorism attacks pales in comparison to other violent acts. It should also be noted that immigrants and children of immigrants make up a quarter of the U.S. population. Trump, himself, is a child of Scottish immigrant.

"Nearly a year ago, the Senate Subcommittee asked President Obama's Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security to provide the immigration history of all terrorists inside the United States. These Departments refused to comply. Nobody even knows why."

Trump is embellishing slightly. The request didn’t come from the subcommittee but the senator who chairs it, and it’s not clear that the administration "refused to comply."

In August 2015, Sessions along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX., sent the heads of each department a letter asking for the immigration history of 72 individuals with terrorist ties.  In a follow-up statement in November, Sessions and Cruz condemned the departments for failing to "provide immigration details on a single one of them."

The statement suggests the administration was stalling on fulfilling the request, writing that it’s "quite telling" that the administration "cannot find the time or resources to provide timely answers to these simple questions."

"Each year, the United States permanently admits more than 100,000 immigrants from the Middle East."

This is Mostly True. Using a strict definition of the region, the number is closer to 70,000. But using the colloquial understanding of the Middle East (including countries in central Asia like Afghanistan and Pakistan and those in north Africa like Libya and Tunisia), it’s close to 100,000 or more. It’s worth remembering that not all immigrants from these countries are Muslim.   

"Having learned nothing from these attacks, (Clinton) now plans to massively increase admissions, without a screening plan, including a 500 percent increase in Syrian refugees coming into our country."

This is a mixed bag in terms of accuracy. Clinton has said she would raise Obama’s limit of 10,000 to 65,000 — a 550 percent increase. We rated this part of his claim Mostly True, noting that his use of the number is misleading.

His charge that the admissions increase comes "without a screening plan" echoes a point he made later in the speech: There’s "no system to vet refugees" from the Middle East. That’s False. While there are concerns about information gaps, a system does exist and has existed since 1990.

It involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies as well as the United Nations. Refugee vetting typically takes one to two years and includes numerous rounds of security checks.

"We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States."

Trump didn’t quantify "tremendous flow" in this speech.

The State Department plans to take in 85,000 refugees from all countries in Fiscal Year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016) and 10,000 specifically from Syria. The next fiscal year’s target will be 100,000 from all countries.

We should note that admissions are also behind schedule. Halfway into the fiscal year, the United States has admitted 2,805 Syrian refugees as of May 31, 2016.

"Radical Islamic terrorism (is) a very important term, a term the president refuses to use."

It’s True that Obama purposefully avoids saying the words, but whether the term is "very important" is up for debate.

Trump and other Republicans contend it’s important to "name the enemy" and radical Islamic principles are at odds with Western values. Obama and Clinton (as well as former President George W. Bush), on the other hand, argue using the phrase actually helps legitimize ISIS as leaders of a religion they’ve perverted.

"If we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them," Obama said in an angry rebuke the day after Trump’s speech. "There is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam.’ It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy."

"Not surprisingly, wages for our workers haven’t budged in almost twenty years."

We rated a broader claim -- "Americans haven’t had a raise in 15 years" -- from Hillary Clinton Mostly True. Adjusted for inflation, median household income has actually declined 7 percent over the last 15 years. The earnings of

"You wonder why I’ve gotten more votes than any Republican in the primary in the history of the Republican Party."

Trump has been saying this since at least April of 2016. Back then, it was False. But as the primaries have concluded, Trump now holds the all-time record for most votes in GOP primary history.

"In San Bernardino, as an example, people who know what was going on — they knew exactly, but they used the excuse of racial profiling for not reporting it."

We rated a similar claim from Trump supporter Chris Christie False.

We found second-hand reports that weren’t well-sourced and primarily in right-leaning news website about a neighbor of Syed Farook’s mother recounting the words of another neighbor. The neighbor, according to the first one, was considering reporting an unusual amount of package deliveries (whether they were to Farook’s house or Farook’s mother’s house is unclear) but "she didn’t want to profile."

This is hearsay from a neighbor of Farook’s mother, who didn’t live in San Bernardino. Even if we assume the story is true, the neighbor was only suspicious, but she didn’t "know" an attack was being planned.

"The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow like nobody has ever seen before."

Trump’s view that "regime change" abetted the growth of ISIS is shared by many, including Bernie Sanders. But Trump fails to mention that he was in favor of intervening in Libya in 2011.

"It’s horrible what’s going on; it has to be stopped. We should do on a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives," he said on his video log.

"We’ve spend almost $5 trillion over the years in trying to nation-build in the Middle East. And it has been a complete and total disaster."

Trump may have been referring to the cost of the wars in the Middle East. A 2013 Harvard University study estimated a $4 trillion to $6 trillion price tag for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that includes future expenses like health care for wounded veterans and repairs to the military.

Despite Trump’s insistence that he was against the Iraq war from the very beginning, we found no evidence that he was a vocal opponent.

"I've said NATO needs to change its focus and stop terrorism. ...Since I've raised that criticism — and I’ve gotten no credit for it but these are minor details — NATO has since announced a new initiative — front page of the Wall Street Journal, four days again — focused on just that."

This is wildly inaccurate and misleading. In a tweet in early June, Trump linked to a Wall Street Journal story on NATO creating a new intelligence chief post and said the alliance "made the change without giving me credit."

But by the time Trump said NATO should be "readjusted to take care of terrorism" in late March 2016, NATO had been engaged in counterrorism efforts for over a decade.

NATO launched its first anti-terror operation a month after the 9/11 attacks, created a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism in 2002, and adopted comprehensive counterterrorism policy guidelines in 2012.

"We've tried it President Obama's way — doesn’t work. He gave the world his apology tour, we got ISIS, and many other problems, in return."

Obama’s "apology tour" is a common and old Republican talking point, and it’s a pretty ridiculous charge. We gave out several Pants on Fire ratings for it in the 2012 election. In 2009, Obama criticized U.S. actions like torture practices at Guantanamo, but he didn’t offer a single apology.

Update: We've removed a reference to the Washington Post's translation of videos on the Orlando shooter's father's YouTube channel. The translation is in dispute as of June 23, 2016.

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