Elections

Checking the facts from GOP debate

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (from left), answers a question as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks on during a Republican presidential primary debate, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (from left), answers a question as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., listens and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks on during a Republican presidential primary debate, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP

The seven leading presidential GOP candidates on Thursday sparred over terrorism, defense spending and immigration.

Here are some of their statements that raised questions.

Bulk collection of phone data

Sen. Rand Paul said the National Security Agency’s massive bulk collection of telephone records of Americans didn’t stop any terrorism attack.

He’s right – even the FBI acknowledged in May that the broad surveillance powers under the Patriot Act didn’t lead to the disruption of any plot. The New America think tank in Washington also conducted an in-depth look at intelligence value of bulk collection and concluded that the contribution to terrorism cases was “minimal.”

Sen. Ted Cruz’s voting record

Paul accused Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., of missing crucial votes in the Senate. His characterization of Cruz’s record is somewhat overstated.

Cruz admitted that he skipped a vote on a bill that called for auditing the Fed. According to Politifact, all the Republican presidential candidates in the Senate have missed votes. Information on GovTrack shows that Rubio has missed 13.3 percent of all votes while Cruz has been absent from 12.4 percent. Paul has missed 4 percent.

Cruz and Rubio on immigration

Cruz has asserted in past GOP debates that Rubio co-sponsored a bill that would have given President Obama the power to admit Syrian refugees without background checks.

That isn’t true.

According to Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and the Washington Post Fact Checker, Cruz is referring to the 2013 immigration bill created by a bipartisan group of senators – including Rubio – known as the Gang of Eight.

The bill passed the Senate but never made it in the House. According to the Post, the bill would simply make it easier for some groups to become refugees due to “humanitarian concern,” such as religious persecution. The bill simply streamlines the refugee application process without actually removing any background checks.

Data curated by InsideGov

The size of the U.S. military

Rubio said the U.S. is “on pace to have the smallest Army since the end of World War II, the smallest Navy in 100 years, the smallest Air force in our history.” It’s a claim that’s been made in some form by several 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

And it’s misleading because the military’s equipment has changed.

Military experts say that the claim doesn’t take into account the improved firepower of today’s ships and aircraft.

In previous debates, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina all have said that the U.S. Navy is the smallest since 1917.

So did former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney when he ran for president in 2012. PolitiFact concluded then that the claim wasn’t true because the number of ships had risen in recent years, and that the ships today are more powerful than their predecessors.

The ISIS threat

Rubio, in describing the “unprecedented” threat posed by the Islamic State, said the extremist group had 12 affiliates. He was wrong in that far more than 12 militant groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, though they range from cells that are simply inspired by the Islamic State to actual branches that take orders from central leadership.

Data curated by InsideGov

As the counter-terrorism research group Intel Center shows, militants have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State from across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Clarice Silber, Andi Cwieka, Hannah Allam, Kevin G. Hall, Curtis Tate, Vera Bergengruen, Javaria Khan and Maria Recio contributed to this article.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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