Politifact: 8 times the Mueller report shows Trump and his team misleading the public-Apr. 26, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report provided a behind-the-scenes reconstruction of key events in Donald Trump’s presidency. It verified media reports about events that Trump called "fake news," and it documented instances when Trump aides told the press false information.

1. Trump publicly claimed Mueller had conflicts of interest and was turned down for FBI job. Trump aides told investigators none of that was true.

Mueller’s report (p. 80, Volume 2) says that Trump’s close aides told Trump there were no true conflicts of interests. Mueller never went to the White House looking for a job, and the Justice Department cleared Mueller of ethical concerns preventing him from the special counsel role.

2. Trump claimed he hadn’t thought about firing Mueller. His staff told Mueller otherwise.

Mueller’s report (p. 82, volume 2) outlines instances when Trump consulted with multiple people about firing Mueller. Former White House counsel Don McGahn told the special counsel’s office that Trump in June 2017 repeatedly pressed him about firing Mueller.

McGahn told the special counsel’s office that in a separate call, Trump "was more direct, saying something like, ‘Call (Deputy Attorney General) Rod (Rosenstein), tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the special counsel.’ McGahn recalled the President telling him ‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.’ "

3. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed ‘countless’ FBI agents lost faith in former FBI Director James Comey. She told investigators that was wrong.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017. In a May 10, 2017, press briefing, Sanders justified the firing, saying, "most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director."

In response to a reporter's challenge that Comey was respected, Sanders said, "Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things."

Sanders told the special counsel’s office (p. 72, volume 2) that her comment was a "slip of the tongue."

4. Sanders claimed a Justice Department review prompted Comey’s firing. The Justice Department privately refuted that narrative.

Trump said in a letter that Comey's dismissal came at the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein, and Trump agreed with their judgment. Reporters asked Sanders if Rosenstein "decided on his own" to review Comey’s performance. "Absolutely," Sanders said.

According to Mueller’s report (p. 72, volume 2), Sessions and Rosenstein told McGahn they were concerned about the narrative that Rosenstein had initiated the effort to fire Comey: "The White House Counsel's Office agreed that it was factually wrong to say that the Department of Justice had initiated Comey's termination, and McGahn asked attorneys in the White House Counsel's Office to work with the press office to correct the narrative."

5. Sanders claimed Trump ‘certainly didn’t dictate’ a statement for Donald Trump Jr. about the Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. However, Trump did.

In a statement to the New York Times, Trump. Jr. said the meeting "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children." A reporter asked Sanders to clarify the degree to which Trump weighed in on the statement. "He certainly didn’t dictate, but he — like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do," Sanders said.

Several months after that, Trump’s personal counsel privately told the special counsel’s office that "the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr." (Mueller’s report, p. 98, volume 2).

6. Trump said the Steele Dossier triggered the investigation — and that the probe 'was a plan by those who lost the election.' Both claims are false.

The Mueller report confirms it was the actions of Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that triggered the investigation in July 2016. Papadopoulos told a diplomat at an upscale London bar in May 2016 that Moscow had "political dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. 

In late July — days after WikiLeaks’ dumped thousands of internal Democratic National Committee documents that proved damaging to Clinton — U.S. law enforcement became aware of Papadopoulos’ claim.

"Within a week of the (WikiLeaks) release, a foreign government informed the FBI about its May 2016 interaction with Papadopoulos and his statement that the Russian government could assist the Trump Campaign," said Mueller’s report (p. 6, volume 1). "On July 31, 2016, based on the foreign government reporting, the FBI opened an investigation into potential coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign."

7. Trump repeatedly attempted to downplay his business plans in Russia. The Mueller report confirms his interest in Trump Tower Moscow.

Mueller’s report (p. 134, volume 2) outlines efforts led by Michael Cohen, then executive vice president of the Trump Organization and Trump’s lawyer, from September 2015 until at least June 2016 for a Trump Tower in Moscow. The plan was to have a Russian corporation build a tower in Moscow that licensed the Trump name and brand.

8. Trump claimed Comey wanted to have dinner with him. But it was the other way around.

Mueller’s report (p. 33, volume 2) said it was Trump who called Comey and invited him to dinner. The report addresses the disagreement over whose idea it was to get together.

The report said that the President's Daily Diary confirmed that Trump "extend[ed] a dinner invitation" to Comey on January 27." A footnote said that two witnesses corroborated that it was Trump who "reached out to schedule the dinner, without Comey having asked for it."

Fact-checking the 2020 Democrats:

Pete Buttigieg said he has "more executive experience than the vice president." That's Mostly False: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he has more executive experience than Vice President Mike Pence, but his count of the years is extremely narrow. In terms of No. 1-in-charge jobs, Buttigieg’s seven-plus years as mayor exceed the four years Pence served as Indiana governor. But Pence’s duties were wider as governor. And even though it’s a No. 2 position, Pence’s two-plus years as vice president count as high-level executive-branch experience as well. Was Jimmy Carter the last president to call Israeli settlements illegal, as Marianne Williamson said? Half True: We couldn’t find an example of Carter actually using the word "illegal" to refer to Israeli settlements while he was president. However, he did as an ex-president, and experts agreed that his rhetoric came closer than the words used by his successors in the Oval Office. Still, it’s important to note that subsequent presidents’ actual policies may have had more teeth than Carter’s. We went through each president's record, both rhetorical and substantial, since Carter. Bernie Sanders gets history right on prison voting in Vermont: It’s true that Vermont felons can vote from prison today, and we can’t find anything to suggest that hasn’t always been the case in the state. The Vermont Constitution requires people to be of "quiet and peaceable behavior," but otherwise places no restrictions on who can vote. Does Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax pay for her child care and higher education plans? To help pay for her spending ideas, Warren has an Ultra-Millionaire Tax. "If we put that 2-cent wealth tax in place on the 75,000 largest fortunes in this country, we can do universal child care for every baby zero to 5," Warren told a CNN town hall. "(We can do) universal college and knock back the student loan debt burden for 95% of our students, and still have nearly a trillion dollars left over." Readers asked us whether Warren’s math would get a passing grade, so we went through the numbers. Analysts told us Warren makes a lot of assumptions that raise uncertainty. 

Send us your questions about the Mueller report and Russian interference 

We know the news can be confusing right now, and it's hard to separate out plains facts from spin. So send us your questions! Email me at holan@politifact.com and use the subject "Mueller report question" so it doesn't go to my spam folder. We'll use your questions to guide our ongoing coverage and answer questions in future weekly emails. 

Fact-checking news from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies

How did the Internet do with the news that the Notre Dame cathedral was burning? Not so good. This week, Poynter reporter Daniel Funke looked at the spread of internet hoaxes about the fire at Notre Dame, and how fact-checkers were fighting back. The report concludes that until Twitter develops a base-level way to enforce its policies and decrease the reach of misinforming posts, bogus content will continue to inundate users following big breaking news events. Read Daniel's story. You can also read PolitiFact's fact-checking on Notre Dame: No, there was not a man "dressed in Muslim garb" walking in the cathedral's tower during the fire.

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