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Updated 2:51 AM  |  August 1, 2019
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Biden’s erroneous claim on troops withdrawal from Iraq

“I was asked by the president in the first meeting we had on Iraq; he turned and said, ‘Joe, get our combat troops out,’ in front of the entire national security team. One of the proudest moments of my life was to stand there in [Iraq] . . . and tell everyone that we’re — that all our combat troops are coming home. I opposed the surge in Afghanistan.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden

In his first term, President Barack Obama gave Biden oversight of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Biden chaired a committee that made sensitive decisions about the pace and scope of the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops.

But before withdrawing forces in 2011, Obama’s administration tried to persuade Iraqi political leaders to allow a residual force of about 3,500 U.S. troops to remain. Some high-level officials in the Obama administration argued that a total withdrawal would open up a power vacuum in Iraq and erase the gains secured by U.S. forces and international allies. One of them was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Biden argued to keep a residual force in Iraq, rather than pull all troops, according to the U.S. ambassador to the country at the time.

We gave the former vice president Two Pinocchios for a similar claim last week.

By 2014, with no U.S. forces in the picture, the Islamic State terrorist group began to take control of parts of Iraq. Obama, by 2016, had sent 5,000 U.S. troops back into the country to reverse the Islamic State tide. Biden was still the vice president, but he does not mention this inconvenient history in debates or public remarks.

At tonight’s debate, he added that he “opposed the surge in Afghanistan.” Obama increased troop levels from nearly 30,000 to more than 100,000 before ordering the withdrawal in 2011.

Yang: ‘American life expectancy has declined for the last three years’

“The problem is that so many people feel like the economy has left them behind. What we have to do is, we have to say, ‘look, there’s record high GDP and stock market prices, you know what else there are record highs [of]? Suicides, drug overdoses, depression, anxiety.’ It’s gotten so bad that American life expectancy has declined for the last three years.”

— Businessman Andrew Yang

Life expectancy for Americans has steadily declined over two of the last three years, from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 years in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Data for 2018 are not publicly available) That’s the first decline over a three-year stretch in a century.

Suicides and fatal drug overdoses have contributed to the decline of life expectancy, as Yang claims, but CDC also cites chronic liver disease as a contributing factor.

Number of children at detention facility is lower than Harris’s estimate

“I went to a place in Florida called Homestead, and there is a private detention facility being paid for by your taxpayer dollars — a private detention facility — that currently houses 2,700 children.”

—Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.)

Harris is speaking about the capacity of the facility. But the number of children is far lower. As of July 22, there were 990 unaccompanied children at Homestead, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS said the average length of stay for unaccompanied children currently at Homestead is 36 days.

Biden’s statement that the First Step Act was an add-on to a bill passed under Obama

“The bill he talks about is a bill that in my — our administration, we passed. We passed that bill that you added onto. That’s the bill, in fact, you passed.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden to Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)

Biden appeared to claim that the First Step Act, signed into law by Donald Trump in 2018, was merely an add-on to a bill passed during the Obama administration. The law was a bipartisan project, led by senators such as Booker, which overhauled federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws as well as some aspects of the federal prison system. It was intended to address problems identified in the 1994 crime bill signed by President Bill Clinton and long championed by then-Sen. Biden as the “Biden Crime bill.”

Booker looked at Biden with disbelief, and it’s easy to see why. A Biden aide said he was referring to a 2010 law passed under President Barack Obama that addressed the “100-1” rule, so named because it required a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking in 500 grams of powder cocaine or five grams of crack. The 2010 law narrowed it to 18-1, and the First Step Act made it retroactive.

But the First Step Act was a much broader piece of legislation — far more than an add-on to the 2010 law.

De Blasio on the Eric Garner case

“[The Eric Garner family] are going to get justice. There’s finally going to be justice. I have confidence in that — in the next 30 days, in New York. You know why? Because for the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution, and years went by, and a lot of pain accrued.”

— New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

De Blasio has been criticized for inaction on the Eric Garner case, and this defense he gave at the debate was false.

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo was accused of killing Garner, an African American man, in 2014, after encountering him selling loose cigarettes. Pantaleo used a chokehold prohibited by the police department.

Five years later, Pantaleo remains a New York police officer. The state of New York did not charge him. The Department of Justice investigated the case and declined to bring charges.

De Blasio said he held off on taking action on the case because the Justice Department “told the city of New York that we could not proceed.” That’s false. The Justice Department requested that the city hold off but did not block de Blasio from taking action, as New York City journalists were quick to point out.

Fact-checking the second Democratic debate
Democratic 2020 presidential candidates (L-R) Sen. Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pose together before the start of the second night of the second 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Wednesday. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Twenty candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination are again taking the stage — 19 who were on the stage during last month’s debate and one, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who was seen by debate-watchers for the first time Tuesday. The debate, hosted by CNN, began airing at 8 p.m. Eastern; the Fact Checker is writing on the candidates’ claims here.

Here’s what the Fact Checker found during the first debate.

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