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Sept. 8, 2020, 7:03 a.m. EDT

What Biden, Trump, Barr get wrong about the coronavirus, protests, light bulbs, and voting both by mail and in person

Associated Press engages in fact checks

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been putting forth convoluted guidance to his supporters on submitting double votes in the November election, an act that would be illegal and risk public safety in the pandemic.

In a week filled with fabrication, half-truths and misrepresentation, Trump also wrongly took full credit for veterans improvements that were underway before he took office.

He said he never called John McCain a loser — he did — and also distorted events in Kenosha, Wis.

Meanwhile, Democratic rival Joe Biden falsely claimed to have been the first person to have called for the use of emergency production powers in the pandemic, and he tried to shed light on the history of the incandescent bulb, but was a bit hazy.

A look at recent claims and reality:

On the November election

Trump, at a North Carolina tele-rally on Friday: “So you sign your ballot and mail it in, just mail it. ... On Election Day or early voting, go to your polling place, even though you’ve mailed it in, go to your polling place to see whether or not your mail-in vote has been tabulated or counted. ... So if it hasn’t been counted, if it doesn’t show up, go and vote. And then if your mail-in ballot arrives after you vote, which it shouldn’t, but possibly it could, perhaps. That ballot will not be used ... So send it in and then see, and then vote, and let’s see what happens.”

Trump, in an interview Wednesday with WECT in Wilmington, N.C.: “Send in your ballots, send them in strong. ... And you send them in, but you go to vote. If they haven’t counted it, you can vote.”

The facts: To be clear, it is illegal in all 50 states and under federal law to vote twice in an election, and it’s generally also a crime to attempt to do so.

Election officials also advise people against heading to the polls to check on their mail-in ballots and then attempting to cast another ballot if there isn’t full verification, saying it will cause unnecessary chaos, long waits and health dangers in the pandemic.

Contrary to what Trump suggests, information on whether a ballot has been counted is typically not available right away. In several states, absentee ballots aren’t even counted until after polls close. What can be checked is whether an absentee ballot has been received and, in some cases, whether it has passed a security review and will be submitted for counting.

To be clear, it is illegal in all 50 states and under federal law to vote twice in an election.

A flood of voters showing up on Nov. 3 to check the status of their ballots would mean even more disruption, election officials say.

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said the board “strongly discourages” people from following the president’s guidance. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

Brinson Bell added: “Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law.”

Many states offer ways for voters to verify the status of their ballot online that provide information on when an absentee ballot request has been received, when a ballot has been sent, when the ballot has been received by a local election office and whether it has passed the security review and been accepted. These are typically available on the website of the state election board or the secretary of state.

Voters in the few states that don’t provide this information online have the option to call their local election office.

Attorney General William Barr on fraud in the vote-by-mail process, in a Wednesday interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion.”

The facts: Actually, multiple studies have debunked the notion of pervasive voter fraud in general and in the vote-by-mail process.

The five states that relied on mail-in ballots even before the coronavirus pandemic — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah — have said they have necessary safeguards in place to ensure against fraud and to prevent hostile foreign actors from co-opting the vote. More states intend to rely more heavily on mail-in voting this fall because of the pandemic.

The attorney general cited a report from more than a decade ago from a commission led by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker that said vote-by-mail could be vulnerable to fraud. But the commission pointed out in a statement in May that it had found little evidence of fraud in states such as Oregon that had sufficient safeguards.

Barr also said he was basing on “logic” his concern that a hostile foreign actor could produce bogus ballots for the election. But senior U.S. officials said on a conference call with reporters last month that they had no intelligence to suggest that was happening.

On veterans and the late Sen. John McCain

Trump, on Twitter on Thursday: “I was never a big fan of John McCain, disagreed with him on many things including ridiculous endless wars and the lack of success he had in dealing with the VA and our great Vets.”

Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, referring to Trump in a Sunday appearance on CNN: “I see the proof in the pudding. And the proof in the pudding is, our military is stronger, and our Veterans Affairs Department is in a place that it has never been. This is the renaissance. And it’s all because of one man.”

The facts: Trump and his VA chief are ignoring the accomplishments begun during the Obama-Biden administration, which included McCain’s singular successes on behalf of fellow veterans.

McCain was a leading force in the Senate behind the law that gave veterans an option to go outside the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health-care system and get private care at public expense under certain conditions. President Barack Obama signed the VA Choice legislation into law. Ignoring that reality, Trump persistently claims that he brought Choice into law when no one else could.

Trump signed a law in 2018 that expanded the options for using the Choice program established by Obama, McCain and others.

The 2018 law is named after three lawmakers who were veterans of war. All of them now are dead. They are Rep. Samuel R. Johnson, R-Texas, and Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, along with McCain, R-Ariz.

Both Trump and Wilkie also frequently point to VA accomplishments such as improved wait times and the offering of same-day mental health services. But those same-day services at VA were started during the Obama administration under Wilkie’s predecessor, David Shulkin, who was a VA health undersecretary at the time. A 2019 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, meanwhile, found improved wait times at VA from 2014 to 2017, a period largely covering the Obama administration, with VA patient satisfaction also on the rise.

While the VA has shown good ratings during the Trump administration, Wilkie’s attribution to “one man” — Trump alone — the VA improvements is sorely misplaced.

Trump, in a Thursday tweet: “Also, I never called John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.” — tweet Thursday.

The facts: He called McCain a loser.

In addition, the Associated Press has confirmed many of the comments Trump was reported by the Atlantic to have made disparaging fallen or captured U.S. service members, such as his description of the American dead in a military graveyard as “losers.”

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