Fact Check: Obama's Two Terms Were NOT 'A Crime Spree'

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Obama's Two Terms Were NOT 'A Crime Spree' No Crimes

Were the two terms that Barack Obama spent in office "a crime spree" in which $4 trillion of $6 trillion sent to Muslim nations disappeared, $200 billion was sent to Iran, $500 billion was "stolen" from the Housing and Urban Development department, and $50 billion was set aside to build mosques around the globe? No, that's not true. The claims are untrue, overstated, or skew facts publicly available in reports and documents and no law enforcement authority has even brought charges.

The claims appear in a post (archived here) published March 3, 2019, on the Deplorables for Trump Facebook page. The opening lines of the post, which is chiefly a meme titled "This was not a presidential administration...It was a crime spree," are:

Obama stole the money and gave it away. We would like to know how much kick back did he get?

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2020-10-17 at 7.13.11 PM.png

There are several claims in the meme -- none of them attributed or sourced to back them up.

First, was '$6 trillion sent to Muslim nation ...$4 Trillion just disappears'?

This claim has no backing, and Lead Stories was unable to find any documentation that Obama sent $6 trillion to a Muslim nation or nations, let alone saw $4 trillion of that disappearing. If the post was based on President Trump's claim that we've spent that amount on Middle East wars, the calculation is still wrong. For one thing, those wars started long before Obama took office. Trump's words in October 2016, ahead of his election, were:

The people opposing us are the same people -- and think of this -- who've wasted $6 trillion on wars in the Middle East -- we could have rebuilt our country twice -- that have produced only more terrorism, more death, and more suffering. Imagine if that money had been spent at home."

Here's a YouTube video of the comments:

Here are the correct estimates from December 2014, according to the Congressional Research Office (This accounts for Iraq, Afghanistan, and all terror operations since 9/11:

With enactment of the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act on January 1, 2014 (H.R. 3547/P.L. 113-73), Congress has approved appropriations for the past 13 years of war that total $1.6 trillion for military operations, base support, weapons maintenance, training of Afghan and Iraq security forces, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans' health care for the war operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks."

Lead Stories is not clear where the posters came up with the remaining $4 trillion-plus figure -- or how it was determined that the Obama administration lost $4 trillion of $6 trillion. Trump, however, repeated the claim in February 2017, just a month into his presidency, according to this video clip of him with airline executives.

Was $200 billion sent to Iran under Obama?

If this is referring to the U.S. transferring money to Iran -- something that led to charges that the White House paid Tehran a ransom -- the numbers are again wrong. According to a Wall Street Journal story from August 3, 2016:

The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran's last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi."

Yet again, with no sourcing in the meme, it is difficult to say where the posters got their figures.

According to a later story from CNN on June 21, 2019,

Trump wrote that through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, Obama 'gave (Iran) 150 Billion Dollars.'
Facts First: The Iran Deal unlocked Iranian assets that were previously frozen due to sanctions, but it's unclear how much those assets were worth -- $150 billion is the highest estimate provided by US officials and it's thought that Iran could not have accessed all of that money because much of it was tied up in projects overseas.
Trump's assertion that Obama "gave" Iran this money is not quite accurate. As part of the deal (which multiple countries were involved in), Iranian assets held in banks and financial institutions across the world were unfrozen.
Estimates for the value of these assets vary. In an op-ed in 2015, then-Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Trott, said sanction relief would add up to somewhere between $50 billion and $150 billion.
At the time, the US Treasury Department estimated that the usable liquid assets Iran would be able to access would equal 'a little more than $50 billion,' Adam Szubin, then acting undersecretary of treasury, said during a 2015 hearing to the Senate Banking Committee."
Here is part of the statement from the U.S. Department of the Treasury on the funds:
The Impact of Our Sanctions: Bringing Iran to the Table
The powerful set of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, and especially those imposed over the last five years, effectively isolated Iran from the world economy. The U.S. government led this effort across two administrations and with bipartisan backing in Congress. Together we obtained four tough UN Security Council resolutions, and built upon our longstanding primary embargo by enlisting the support of foreign partners from Europe to Asia to impose further pressure on Iran. This campaign yielded results. After years of intransigence, Iran came to the table prepared to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program.
To see the impact of the sanctions campaign, consider the following metrics. Today, the Iranian economy is estimated to be only 80 percent the size that it would have been, had it continued on its pre-2012 growth path. Consequently, it will take until at least 2022--even with sanctions relief--for Iran to get back to where it would have been absent our sanctions. Iran has foregone approximately $160 billion in oil revenue alone since 2012, after our sanctions reduced Iran's oil exports by 60 percent. This money is lost and cannot be recovered.
Iran's designated banks, as well as its Central Bank, have been cut off from the world. The Iranian currency has declined by more than 50 percent. We maintained strong economic pressure throughout the two-year negotiating period. Indeed, during that time, our sanctions deprived Iran of an additional $70 billion in oil revenue, and Iran's total trade with the rest of the world remained virtually flat.
To achieve this pressure, international consensus and cooperation were vital. Around the world, views on Iran's sponsorship of groups like Hizballah and its regional interventions differ. But the world's major powers have been united in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran's major trading partners and oil customers joined us in imposing pressure on Iran, and paid a significant economic price to do so, based on U.S. sanctions and a clear path forward. The point of these efforts was clear: to change Iran's nuclear behavior, while holding out the prospect of relief if Iran addressed the world's concerns about its nuclear program."
Was $500 billion 'stolen' from HUD?
The short answer is no, accounting errors were discovered, and there is zero proof that Obama was directly involved in them. Yet, current HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been credited with discovering the "theft." The Office of the Inspector General issued this updated report after Carson got into office. At that time, the OIG's updated audit found:
What We Audited and Why
In accordance with the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, as amended, we are required to annually audit the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD reissued its fiscal years 2016 and 2015 (restated) consolidated financial statements due to pervasive material errors that we identified. Our objective was to express an opinion on the fairness of HUD's consolidated financial statements in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) applicable to the Federal Government. This report presents our reissued independent auditor's report on HUD's fiscal years 2016 and 2015 (restated) consolidated financial statements, including an update to our report on HUD's internal controls.
What We Found
The total amounts of errors corrected in HUD's notes and consolidated financial statements were $516.4 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively. There were several other unresolved audit matters, which restricted our ability to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to express an opinion. These unresolved audit matters relate to (1) the Office of General Counsel's refusal to sign the management representation letter, (2) HUD's improper use of cumulative and first-in, first-out budgetary accounting methods of disbursing community planning and development program funds, (3) the $4.2 billion in nonpooled loan assets from Ginnie Mae's stand-alone financial statements that we could not audit due to inadequate support, (4) the improper accounting for certain HUD assets and liabilities, and (5) material differences between HUD's subledger and general ledger accounts. This audit report contains 11 material weaknesses, 7 significant deficiencies, and 5 instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations.
FactCheck.org found a memo, no longer available, from HUD Deputy Chief Financial Officer Courtney Timberlake that stated:
Overall, the combined adjustments to the consolidated financial statements resulted in a net adjustment of $3 million, but no change in HUD's financial position or impact on our programs."
The March 1, 2017, OIG report took issue with HUD's statement:
HUD states that the "presentation of the financial information was inaccurate" and describes the errors in its financial statements and notes as "inconsistencies." Since the financial information reported was not correct, these statements are misleading because they imply that the information reported was correct but was merely presented inconsistently. Further, HUD states, "Overall, the combined adjustments to the consolidated financial statements resulted in a net adjustment of $3 million, but no changes in HUD's financial position or impact to our programs." HUD management is downplaying the severity of the condition and impact of the errors identified, which were significant enough to cause it to recall its published AFR and reissue its fiscal year 2016 consolidated financial statements and notes. While the errors identified may not have changed HUD's financial position, as HUD states at the bottom of its financial statements, "The accompanying notes are an integral part of these statements." These notes contained errors of $516.4 billion. While we have audited HUD's reissued statements, we have not fully evaluated any of the new process improvements HUD discussed in its response. We look forward to evaluating these processes as part of our fiscal year 2017 audit.
So yes, there were accounting errors, but auditors did not find that Obama "stole" the money.
Did Obama spend $50 to build mosques around the world?
This claim dates to 2010, according to FactCheck.org, which reported that the American Family Foundation sent out a "mass e-mail" making the claim. That email is no longer available at the AFA's website, but its contents were printed in the FactCheck.org report:
Obama gives your tax dollars to rebuild Muslim mosques around the world. While millions of Americans struggle to keep their homes and jobs, President Barack Obama can't give your tax dollars away fast enough. [EET ]
August 26, 2010

Dear XXXX,

US taxpayer dollars are being given away to help rebuild Islamic mosques overseas. According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration will give away nearly $6 million of American tax dollars to restore 63 historic and cultural sites, including Islamic mosques and minarets, in 55 nations. See the State Department document here.

This is an outrage! Our country is broke. And can you imagine what the ACLU and others on the secular left would say if these monies had been spent to repair Christian churches? They would be screaming "separation of church and state!" Funding Islam on foreign soil with American taxpayer money? Not a whimper.

The latest taxpayer giveaway includes $76,000 for a 16thcentury mosque in China, $67,000 for a mosque in Pakistan,$77,000 to restore minarets in Nigeria and Mauritania, and$50,000 for an Islamic Monument in India.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. program to restore Islamic and other cultural sites in other countries is taxpayer money well spent.

Take Action
Contact your member of Congress today!

In fact, according to FactCheck.org's report, the money was given to cultural sites of historical significance, including churches. Moreover:

...the program isn't the brainchild of President Barack Obama. The program was created by Congress in late 2000 under President Bill Clinton, and the first grants were announced under President George W. Bush in 2001. The State Department says that, in total, the fund has contributed nearly $26 million to approximately 640 cultural heritage sites in more than 100 countries, and more than half was given before Obama took office.

Every link in the FactCheck.org story has since been taken down.

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