AP FACT CHECK: How Trump’s Russia claims line up with report
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has railed for years against the FBI’s investigation into his campaign, making incendiary — and sometimes easily disprovable — allegations.
Those statements were put to the test by a Justice Department watchdog report that found much for Trump to claim as validation, like deep-rooted faults in how agents investigated ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia. But it rejected his inflammatory claims about how the investigation got started and the partisan motivations (or lack thereof) of the agents conducting it.
A look at how Trump’s claims stack up with the inspector general’s report:
TRUMP: “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” — tweet March 17, 2018.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: The report makes clear that the investigation was not “based” on a dossier of information compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, nor does it call the dossier itself fake — though it does acknowledge questions about the reliability of some of his reporting.
Although Trump and his supporters have repeatedly insisted that the investigation was built on the back of an uncorroborated dossier, the report categorically states that the dossier was not part of the July 2016 decision to open the investigation. In fact, the team responsible for the investigation didn’t even get copies of his reports until two months later.
TRUMP: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” — tweet March 4, 2017.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: This is a claim that former FBI Director James Comey has already said was unsupported by evidence. The inspector general report does nothing to change that, noting that of the four Trump associates who faced investigations early on, only one — Carter Page — was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant.
The report contains just 15 references to former President Barack Obama, including that he was briefed in 2016 about Russian election interference and asked the intelligence community to pull together all it could on the Kremlin’s intentions concerning the election.
Comey recalled to the inspector general that he may have told Obama about concerns relating to several Trump associates, but “no one at the meeting responded or followed up with any questions.” He said no one at the White House requested that the FBI investigate members of the Trump campaign.
In fact, FBI notes cited in the report show that Obama suggested “defensive briefs” to warn the Trump campaign about the threat of foreign influence. Trump supporters have long complained that the campaign never got one. The FBI discussed whether to do that but concluded that if someone in the campaign were working with Russians, that person could be tipped off and cover up potential criminal behavior, the report said.
TRUMP: ”@FoxNews: Poll numbers plummet on the Democrat inspired and paid for Russian Witch Hunt. With all of the bias, lying and hate by the investigators, people want the investigators investigated. Much more will come out. A total scam and excuse for the Dems losing the Election!” — tweet June 23, 2018.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: As for “hate” or bias, there were derogatory text messages sent and received by Peter Strzok, a lead agent on the Russia case. And some of the FBI leaders whom Trump has publicly scorned have returned their own attacks since leaving the bureau.
But the report not only found that the investigation was not affected by partisan bias, but it also identified something else: pro-Trump communications from agents involved in cultivating a confidential source during the investigation.
According to the report, a supervisory special agent wrote to a colleague that he was “so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.”
TRUMP: “My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!” — tweet May 17, 2019.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: The report doesn’t use “spied” or “treason.”
But it’s certainly the case that some of the investigative steps the report describes supports the fact that some of Trump’s campaign staffers were under surveillance.
Although the report says the FBI did not place any confidential human sources inside the campaign, it did task several of its sources to interact with multiple campaign officials. Those include Page and campaign aide George Papadopoulos — during and after their times on the campaign — as well as an unidentified “high-level” campaign official who was not a subject of the investigation.
The report says that the use of those sources, though brushing up against protected First Amendment speech, followed protocol.
It also rejects one of Papadopoulos’ theories that he was framed.
Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, has alleged that a Maltese professor who told him that Russia possessed stolen Hillary Clinton emails — a revelation that initiated the investigation — was some sort of intelligence asset or perhaps even worked with the FBI.
But the report says the FBI searched its database of confidential human sources and found no evidence suggesting that the professor, Joseph Mifsud, was one of them, “or that Mifsud’s discussions with Papadopoulos were part of an FBI operation.”
TRUMP: “Wow, Strzok-Page, the incompetent & corrupt FBI lovers, have texts referring to a counter-intelligence operation into the Trump Campaign dating way back to December, 2015. SPYGATE is in full force! Is the Mainstream Media interested yet? Big stuff!” — tweet June 5, 2018.
WHAT THE REPORT SAYS: There’s a lot going on in this tweet, but the central allegation — that an investigation of the campaign was underway in 2015 — is debunked in the report.
It states explicitly that the investigation did not start until July 31, 2016, and says it found no evidence that any informants were sent to interact with Trump associates before the investigation was opened.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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