Fact check: Trump’s tweets about Clinton, Sessions, FBI
Washington — In invoking Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and complaining that his own attorney general is not holding her accountable, President Donald Trump rehashed concerns that have preoccupied him since the campaign last year.
But his series of tweets about Clinton, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe misstated key facts and omitted others, including one very relevant one: Sessions has had little to say about Clinton because he recused himself earlier this year from any investigation of her. Taken together, the tweets point to Trump’s inability even now to turn his attention from Clinton, and also harken back to suggestions in the campaign that he might use the Justice Department as a mechanism to punish a political opponent.
A look at the statements and how they hold up to scrutiny:
What did Trump mean when he said Sessions had taken a “very weak position” on Clinton’s “crimes” and on intelligence leakers?
The tweet covers a lot of ground, but it seems to be, in part, a clear reference to Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
It is true that Clinton wasn’t prosecuted for mishandling classified information, but that had nothing to do with Sessions.
James Comey as FBI director last July declined to recommend charges against Clinton, saying neither she nor her aides had intentionally broken any laws regarding the handling of classified material. The Justice Department under Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted the FBI’s conclusion.
In asking “where are the emails,” Trump seems to be referring to the tens of thousands of emails that Clinton deleted because she said they were personal in nature. Trump has repeatedly suggested that Clinton should be investigated over the missing emails. In the 2016 campaign, he even seemed to invite the Russians to look for them.
Paradoxically, Comey’s treatment of Clinton — including a news conference where he criticized her and a public disclosure months later that the FBI was revisiting the Clinton case — was initially cited by Trump’s White House as a basis for the president’s decision to fire Comey in May.
Trump also conveyed his frustration over leaks of classified intelligence that in some cases have embarrassed him and his administration. But the Justice Department under Sessions actually has brought a case — charging a U.S. government contractor in June of leaking classified documents to a news organization.
What does any of this have to do with Sessions?
It’s not clear if Trump remembers this, but Sessions at his January confirmation hearing actually forfeited his right to be involved in any Clinton-related investigation.
The Alabama Republican was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump and was a loyal and reliable presence on campaign stops. Video online shows him smiling from a stage as a crowd chants “Lock her up” in reference to Clinton.
So when Sessions was asked at the hearing what role he would have in any Clinton-related investigations — Trump, after all, had floated the idea of reopening the email investigation and of appointing a special prosecutor — the senator said he would recuse himself.
“It was a highly contentious campaign,” Sessions said at the time. “I, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign.” He said: “With regard to Secretary Clinton and some of the comments I made, I do believe that that could place my objectivity in question.”
Unstated in these tweets but central to Trump’s dissatisfaction with Sessions: The attorney general also recused himself from the continuing investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible coordination between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.
Why was Trump tweeting about McCabe receiving $700K from Clinton for his wife?
The tweet in question — “Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!” — is a misstatement of fact.
McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, ran for the Virginia Senate in 2015 and received routine donations from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime friend and ally of Clinton. McAuliffe’s political action committee and the Democratic Party of Virginia gave her campaign $700,000, an unremarkable amount for a competitive Senate race that year.
Those donations also happened before the FBI says McCabe was promoted to deputy director of the FBI and took a supervisory role in the email investigation. He became acting director in May after Trump fired Comey.
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