Fact check: Trump falsely claims report exonerates him
Washington – President Donald Trump came out swinging Friday, lodging a remarkable series of claims and accusations about a new watchdog report about the Justice Department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of emails. In an impromptu press conference on the White House driveway, the president used the report to revive his complaints about the FBI and to declare himself exonerated in the ongoing Russia probe.
His claim to have been vindicated is not true.
Here’s a look at what Trump said about the latest findings and what really happened:
TRUMP: “More importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And if you read the report, you’ll see that.”
THE FACTS: At no point did the Justice Department inspector general’s 500-page report address whether Trump or his associates cooperated with Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election. It also doesn’t say whether Trump tried to obstruct justice by firing James Comey as FBI director.
Those questions – collusion and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice – are still being examined by special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed last year to take over the FBI’s Russia probe after Trump fired Comey. And while Mueller has charged 20 people and three companies, he’s been silent on both points.
TRUMP: “They were plotting against my election.”
THE FACTS: The report never suggests any kind of FBI plot to keep Trump from office. What it did expose were politically biased text messages by some FBI staff who seemed upset at the prospect of Trump taking office.
Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said he was “deeply troubled” by these missives, including one text exchange in which a senior FBI official asks: Trump’s “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Another senior employee responds: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
The report says the exchange is “indicative of a biased state of mind” and “implies a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.” But the report ultimately notes that agency employees are entitled to their own political views and found no evidence that the investigation was compromised by political bias.
TRUMP on Comey: “What he did was criminal. What he did was a terrible thing to people. What he did was so bad in terms of our Constitution, in terms of the well-being of our country.”
THE FACTS: The watchdog faulted Comey for some of his conduct, but did not find that he acted in a “criminal” manner, as Trump put it.
Instead, the report says, Comey made a “serious error in judgment” by notifying Congress, just days before Election Day, that the FBI had reopened the email investigation involving candidate Hillary Clinton. It also calls him “insubordinate” for not alerting then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch to his plans to say publicly that Clinton would not be charged in the case.
TRUMP: “I mean there was total bias.”
THE FACTS: It’s true the watchdog report exposed political bias among some FBI officials via texts. But the report concluded that those private anti-Trump comments didn’t taint the probe. It also concluded that Comey’s actions were not motivated by political bias.
“We found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations; rather, we determined that they were based on the prosecutors’ assessment of the facts, the law and past department practice,” the report said.
TRUMP: “We have 13 angry Democrats … I mean they have no Republicans.”
THE FACTS: Trump was referring to Mueller’s team. But the special counsel is a Republican and some others on his team owe their jobs largely to Republican presidents. Some have indeed given money to Democratic candidates over the years. But Mueller could not have barred them from serving on that basis because regulations prohibit the consideration of political affiliation for personnel actions involving career attorneys. Also, Mueller reports to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee.
The FBI official who texted “we’ll stop” Trump’s election was dropped from Mueller’s team.
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EDITOR’S NOTE – A look at the veracity of claims by political figures
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