Fact check of the January Democratic debate

The Lead panel discusses.

Posted: Jan 14, 2020 10:10 PM
Updated: Jan 14, 2020 10:10 PM

Welcome to CNN's fact check coverage of the last Democratic presidential debate before the voting begins with the Iowa caucuses on February 3. We will post fact checks as we complete them.

The debate was hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It included six candidates who met the party's qualification criteria, the smallest number to date.

The candidates were former Vice President Joe Biden; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; and businessman Tom Steyer.

Sanders on cost of NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China

Sanders repeated his claim that NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China have cost the US "some 4 million jobs."

"I am sick and tired," said Sanders as he drew a contrast with former Vice President Joe Biden, pointing to large multinational corporations that he says have reaped the benefits.

Facts First: This is likely an overestimate of the impact trade agreements can have on the country's employment.

It's difficult to measure the overall economic impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement since trade and investment trends can be affected by a number of factors, including economic growth, inflation and even a weakening dollar, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Most estimates find that NAFTA had little if any impact on national employment levels, though the effect was uneven across regions and industries.

The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that between 1993 and 2013, the US trade deficit with Mexico and Canada increased from $17 billion to $177.2 billion and displaced 851,700 US jobs.

By contrast, the entry of China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 likely had a much larger impact because of sudden competition from cheaper imports. But even the high end of job loss estimates from EPI found that the change in trade status for China caused a loss of 3.4 million jobs between 2001 and 2017.

Another estimate, from a 2016 study by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that normalizing trade relations with China cost the US between 2 million and 2.4 million jobs between 1999 and 2011.

- Donna Borak

Biden on Iraq War stance

Biden repeated his false claim that he opposed the war in Iraq from the moment the war began.

Biden said he made a "mistake" in casting a 2002 vote, as a senator from Delaware, to give President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. But he said he cast the vote because the Bush administration had said "they were just going to get inspectors" into Iraq to check for weapons of mass destruction -- and that, once Bush actually went to war, he became immediately opposed: "From that point on, I was in the position of making the case that it was a big, big mistake."

Facts First: As fact checkers have repeatedly noted, Biden did not oppose the war in Iraq from the point it started in March 2003. He did begin calling his 2002 vote a "mistake" in 2005, two years into the war, but he was a vocal public supporter of the war in 2003 and 2004. And he made clear in 2002 and 2003, both before and after the war started, that he had known he was voting to authorize a possible war, not only to try to get inspectors into Iraq.

CNN's Facts First team has debunked various versions of Biden's claim that he opposed the war from the moment it started. Read longer articles on that here, here and here.

Here are a few representative Biden quotes. In a February 2003 speech in Delaware, he said, "Let everyone here be absolutely clear: I supported the resolution to go to war. I am NOT opposed to war to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. I am NOT opposed to war to remove Saddam from those weapons if it comes to that."

It's true that Biden criticized Bush's approach to diplomacy in the lead-up to the war, warned in the lead-up to the war that Bush was not being honest about how hard the war would be, and he criticized Bush's handling of the war from its first weeks on. But Biden made clear that he supported the war despite that criticism.

In a July 2003 speech at the Brookings Institution, Biden said: "Nine months ago, I voted with my colleagues to give the president of the United States of America the authority to use force and I would vote that way again today. It was the right vote then and would be a correct vote today."

During the debate on Tuesday, Biden also offered a confusing timeline of his positions on the war, saying, "I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn't get inspectors into Iraq to stop -- what thought to be -- the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake. And I acknowledged that."

When Biden said "13 years ago," he appeared to be referring to how, in 2006 and 2007, he was calling his 2002 vote a mistake. The vote itself was more than 17 years ago.

- Daniel Dale and Nate McDermott

Biden on threat to US embassies

Biden said that President Donald Trump "flat-out lied" when he claimed the US killed Iran's top military general because he was targeting four US embassies.

"Quite frankly, I think he's flat-out lied about saying that the reason he went after -- the reason he made the strike was because our embassies were about to be bombed," Biden said.

Facts First: Trump has yet to provide evidence backing up his claim that Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was actively planning new attacks against four US embassies and top administration officials have struggled to defend the President's comments. But there is no way to know if Trump "flat-out lied" without seeing the underlying intelligence, which remains classified.

Trump claimed at an Ohio rally last week that Soleimani "was actively planning new attacks." He later told Fox News, "I believe it probably would've been four embassies," naming Baghdad as one.

Senior administration officials have repeatedly pointed to danger facing US embassies in the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this past weekend he "didn't see" a specific threat against four embassies in the intelligence.

"What the President said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said that he believed that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region," Esper added.

Similarly, Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in an interview on Sunday with ABC's "This Week" that it was unclear whether embassies or US military bases would be targeted, but insisted Trump's claim about four embassies being threatened was "consistent with the intelligence."

Citing two State Department officials, CNN reported on Monday that State Department officials involved in US embassy security were not made aware of imminent threats to four specific US embassies and didn't issue warnings about specific dangers to any US embassy before the administration targeted Soleimani.

The State Department sent a global warning to all US embassies before the strike occurred, a senior State Department official said and the department spokesperson confirmed, but it was not directed at specific embassies and did not warn of an imminent attack.

- Zachary Cohen

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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Columbus
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Oxford
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High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for this weekend. This will keep our area filled with plenty of sunshine. However, there will be some changes next week in our weahter forecast as low pressure brings back some chances for showers and thunderstorms.
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