Facts Matter: El Chapo didn't testify at trial that he funded Democrats

  • In this Jan. 8, 2016, photo, drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by Mexican soldiers following his recapture six months after escaping from a maximum-security prison. The notorious Mexican drug lord was convicted of drug-trafficking charges Tuesday in federal court in New York.

    In this Jan. 8, 2016, photo, drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by Mexican soldiers following his recapture six months after escaping from a maximum-security prison. The notorious Mexican drug lord was convicted of drug-trafficking charges Tuesday in federal court in New York. Associated Press

 
 

A flurry of social media posts last week claimed drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman testified during his trial that he gave millions of dollars to Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff and Hillary Clinton.

Not only is the post false, according to Snopes.com, but Guzman didn't even testify in his own defense.

Guzman, 61, convicted Tuesday of drug smuggling, faces decades behind bars in a maximum-security U.S. prison, according to The Washington Post.

Although dozens of social media accounts carried the message about Guzman's testimony, the post originated Feb. 9 on the page of Facebook user Shane Vandiver, Snopes said.

Vandiver's message, "Drug kingpin El Chapo testified that he gave millions to Pelosi, Schiff & Killary. The Feds then closed the courtroom doors," was reposted and shared nearly 30,000 times, Snopes said.

President exaggerates crowd size

President Donald Trump thanked the fire department during a rally Monday in El Paso, Texas.

"The arena holds 8,000," Trump said. "And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, fire department. Appreciate it," according to a report published in The Hill.

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But El Paso Fire Department spokesman Enrique Aguilar told the El Paso Times the president was not given special permission to allow more than the arena's capacity.

Capacity at the El Paso County Coliseum is 6,500.

Thousands who couldn't get in watched the president's speech on big screens outside the venue, according to the El Paso Times.

"It might be 10,000 with the people outside," Aguilar said. The fire department didn't track those numbers, the Times said.

Trump later claimed there were 35,000 attendees at his rally while comparing it to a nearby rally held by former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, The Hill said.

"We have, let's say 35,000 people tonight, and he has, say, 200 people, 300 people," Trump said.

But NBC News estimated O'Rourke's event, which was planned to oppose Trump's rally, drew between 7,000 and 8,000 people, while Bloomberg News said 10,000 to 15,000 people attended, The Hill said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Harris' comparison misleading

The Internal Revenue Service said preliminary data this year shows tax refunds are down 8 percent compared with last year, according to The Washington Post.

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted, "The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year. Let's call the President's tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1 percent."

But it's misleading for Harris to come to a conclusion while combining the tax cut and refund checks without nuance or qualification, the Post said.

The amount of a refund has nothing to do with a person's tax bill, the Post said. When the tax withholding tables changed with the new tax law, the IRS encouraged Americans to update the withholding from their paychecks, but 80 percent failed to do so. Changes in the tax law and no change in withholding could result in a reduced refund. A worker could end up paying less taxes to the IRS but still see a smaller refund.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A broad-based tax cut will mostly benefit the wealthy because they pay more income tax, according to the Post. A Harris spokesman told the Post the California senator was referring to the "long-term effect" of the tax cut.

Harris' tweet seemed to say the smaller refunds were evidence of a tax hike on the middle class, the Post said. But the majority of middle-class workers, at least in the first year of the tax cut, should expect to pay less in taxes.

Ginsburg attended concert in her honor

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended a concert earlier this month, her first public appearance since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December, according to The Associated Press.

Photography was not permitted at the event. Due to the lack of photos, recent social media posts have falsely claimed Ginsburg wasn't there, AP said.

The 85-year-old justice was seated in the back of the auditorium at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. for a performance of "Notorious RBG in Song," a concert dedicated to her life in the law, AP said.

When Ginsburg missed oral arguments in January and was not at the State of the Union address, other recent social media post have suggested she died following the December surgery.

Before the concert, James Ginsburg said his mother is walking a mile a day and meeting with her personal trainer twice a week, AP reported.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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