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Analysis: Fact-checking the CNN Trump-Biden debate



Analysis: Fact-checking the CNN Trump-Biden debate

This fact check originally appeared on PolitiFact.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, the presumptive presidential nominees, shared a debate stage June 27 for the first time since 2020, in a feisty confrontation that — thanks to debate rules — managed to avoid the near-constant interruptions that marred their previous meetings.

CNN hosted the debate, which had no audience, at its Atlanta studio. CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderated. The debate format allowed CNN to mute candidates’ microphones when it wasn’t their turn to speak.

READ MORE: 3 key moments from CNN’s Biden-Trump debate

Trump attacked Biden’s record, blaming inflation and other issues on Biden’s “insane and stupid policies.” Biden questioned Trump’s conduct, noting that Trump is a convicted felon and saying he has the “morals of an alley cat.”

Biden and Trump clashed on topics including immigration, the economy, abortion and their ages.

Trump’s outlandish immigration claim

Trump says Biden “allowed millions of people to come in here from prisons, jails and mental institutions.”

Pants on Fire! Immigration officials arrested about 103,700 noncitizens with criminal convictions (whether in the U.S. or abroad) from fiscal years 2021 to 2024, federal data shows. That accounts for people stopped at and between ports of entry.

Not everyone was let in. The term “noncitizens” includes people who may have had legal immigration status in the U.S. but were not U.S. citizens.

The data reflects the people that the federal government knows about, but it’s inexhaustive. However, immigration experts said despite the data’s limitations, there is no evidence to support Trump’s statement.

Biden’s close to the mark about immigration reductions

Biden: “I’ve changed (the law) in the way that now you’re in a situation where there are 40 percent fewer people coming across the border illegally.”

Mostly True. The Department of Homeland Security announced that illegal immigration encounters dropped by 40 percent, to fewer than 2,400 each day, in the weeks after Biden announced a policy largely barring asylum access for people entering the U.S. at the southern border. The policy was announced June 4.

But immigration experts caution that it’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason for any change in border crossings. For example, other factors, such as hot weather, can affect migration patterns.

Since the policy was announced only a few weeks ago, it’s unclear whether the drop in illegal immigration will continue.

Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, told PolitiFact the policy could have a short-term deterrent effect. But Adam Isacson, defense oversight director at the Washington Office on Latin America told PolitiFact, that no crackdown in the past decade has had a lasting impact.

Trump’s falsehoods about his and Biden’s economic achievements

Trump: “I gave you the largest tax cut in history.”

False. When it was passed in 2017, Trump’s tax cut was, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the fourth-largest since 1940. And as a percentage of gross domestic product, it ranked seventh in history, according to figures published by the Treasury Department.

Trump: “The only jobs (Biden) created are for illegal immigrants and bounceback jobs, bounce back from the COVID.”

False. Since Biden took office in early 2021, the number of foreign-born Americans who are employed has risen by about 5.6 million. But over the same time period, the number of native-born Americans employed has increased by almost 7.4 million. (There are many more native-born Americans than foreign-born Americans, so on a percentage basis, the increase for foreign-born Americans is about 22 percent, compared with 6 percent for native-born Americans.)

It’s also wrong to say that all the foreign-born employment gains (much less all the employment gains, period) stem from migrants here illegally. The data for foreign-born Americans includes anyone born outside the U.S., including immigrants who have been in the United States legally for decades.

Employment on Biden’s watch passed its prepandemic level by June 2022, about a year-and-a-half into his term. Since then, the U.S. economy has created an additional 6.2 million jobs.

Biden’s economic talking points mostly hit the mark

Biden: “Black unemployment is the lowest level it’s been in a long, long time.”

Mostly True. The record for low Black unemployment rate was set under Biden in April 2023, at 4.8 percent. It has risen modestly since then to 6.1 percent in May 2024, but that’s still lower than it was for much of the first two years under Trump.

Overall, Trump had success on this statistic, too. When Biden set the record, the record he was breaking was Trump’s: 5.3 percent in August and September 2019.

Trump rewrites history about Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol

Trump: Pelosi said “I take full responsibility for Jan. 6.”

False. That’s not what former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

WATCH: Biden says Trump would pardon Jan. 6 rioters, Trump blames Pelosi

In a 41-second video taken on Jan. 6, 2021, Pelosi said, “I take responsibility for not having them just prepare for more,” referring to U.S. Capitol security. She did not say she took responsibility for the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Records show that Pelosi approved a Jan. 6, 2021, request to seek support from the National Guard and pushed to get National Guard troops to the U.S. Capitol when their deployment was delayed by hours that day.

PolitiFact Chief Correspondent Louis Jacobson, Senior Correspondent Amy Sherman, Staff Writers Grace Abels, Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Maria Briceño, Jeff Cercone, Madison Czopek, Marta Campabadal Graus, Ranjan Jindal, Mia Penner, Samantha Putterman, Sara Swann, Maria Ramirez Uribe, Researcher Caryn Baird and KFF Health News Senior Correspondent Julie Appleby contributed to this story.

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