News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
The State of Reform
Download Unite America’s free report
Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
Fact Check

The Medill Fact Check

The Fulcrum has partnered with the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications to co-publish students' fact-checks on public statements about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on civic engagement. The Fulcrum will also publish related stories, podcasts and videos in partnership with the journalism school, a part of Northwestern University.

The Covid-19 Analyzer includes an interactive database that allows users to research stories, public statements and social media reports for accuracy, listing them as true, mixed or false, accompanied by an explanation and links to further information.

The 13-member Politics, Policy and Foreign Affairs Reporting Project team is also producing an updated national scorecard on voting practices called the 2020 Election Tracker, with an interactive map of the 50 states' regulations for in-person and mail-in balloting, as well as candidate filing and voting deadlines.

Winslow Productions/Getty Images
Access to absentee voting expands in three more states

Claim: Absentee ballot request forms sent by political organizations are legitimate. Fact check: True

Voters in states such as Texas and North Carolina were sent absentee voter request forms from political organizations that sometimes feature ads for candidates, including President Trump. As long as the form included in the ad is "not altered or pre-filled" the form would pass inspection in North Carolina, according to Patrick Gannon of the state's Board of Elections.

"As long as they are official North Carolina Absentee Ballot Request Forms (older versions of the official state form are also accepted, as we have updated them this year), and as long as no information is pre-filled, our county boards of elections should accept them," Gannon continued in his email.

Full details on determining the validity of absentee ballot request forms in North Carolina can be found here. Organizations involved in sending these mailers include the North Carolina GOP and the Center for Voter Information. Voters should make sure to inspect the forms they receive from political organizations to ensure they match their state's official request form or they can request an absentee ballot directly from their state's board of elections website.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Balance of Power
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr

Claim: Justice Department can run Trump’s defense in defamation lawsuit. Fact check: True

"The case law is crystal clear that the Westfall Act applies claims against the president, the vice president, as well as other federal employees and members of Congress. ... When you're answering questions in office, even about personal affairs, any defamation claim is subject to Westfall. So this was a normal application of the law." — Attorney General Attorney William Barr speaking at a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday

During a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice could take over as President Trump's defense team in the defamation lawsuit brought against him by journalist E. Jean Carroll, citing the Westfall Act.

Barr's office is claiming that Trump was acting in his capacity as president of the United States when he called Carroll a liar and therefore is protected under the Westfall Act, which gives federal employees immunity from claims like defamation during their service.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's full speech at the Republican National Convention

Claim: Pompeo’s convention speech violated federal law. Fact check: True

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speech's on Tuesday at the Republican National Convention was unprecedented. No prior sitting secretary of state had given a speech at a party convention. Diplomats and federal employees have typically stayed away from partisan activity and there are rules in place that prevent federal employees from being involved in partisan politics. The Hatch Act, passed in 1939, prohibits all federal employees — except the president and vice president — from engaging in various partisan political activities. For example, the law states that federal employees cannot "use their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election." Pompeo did not refer to himself as secretary of state in the video, but he did record the video during an official visit to Israel.

Since Pompeo is part of the National Security Council, he is subject to further restrictions. Such federal employees who have more restrictions cannot "take an active part in partisan political campaigns, by, for example: Campaigning for or against a candidate or slate of candidates. Making campaign speeches or engaging in other campaign activities to elect partisan candidates." Pompeo violated both of these restrictions.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Additionally, a State Department memo on Hatch Act restrictions from December 2019, specifically states, "Senate confirmed Presidential appointees may not even attend a political party convention or convention-related event." Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state in 2018.