On Saturday morning, before heading out for a round of golf, President Donald Trump tweeted this:
“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”
The “memo” in question is the one released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, that alleges that a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was the sole reason a FISA warrant was granted to surveil one-time Trump aide Carter Page. (Got all that?)
Trump’s tweet is 47 words long. In those 47 words, he said 4 things that are simply not true. Let’s go through them!
1. “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe.”
First things first: Like you, I have no idea why Trump put “Trump” in quotes in the tweet. Maybe he means the collective Trump world of family, advisers and family advisers?
That’s not the really important thing, though. The really important thing is that the Nunes memo – even if you believe every word of it – does not “totally vindicate” Trump.
Presuming the “probe” Trump is referring to here is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it’s important to note here that the “probe” is looking into Russia’s attempted interference into the 2016 presidential election and whether there was any collusion between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.
What the Nunes memo alleges – and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee insist that that Steele dossier wasn’t the only reason the FISA warrant for Page was approved – has zero to do with Mueller’s probe. Trump is conflating the possibility the FISA warrant against Page with the broader investigation into Russia’s attempted meddling in a national US election.
Don’t believe me? Here’s what House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, tweeted after the Nunes memo release: “As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not - in any way - discredit his investigation.”
2. “The Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on”
It is true that Mueller’s investigation continues. As do the House and Senate congressional committees’ probes into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
But to describe these investigations as a “witch hunt” simply doesn’t comport with known facts. Witch hunts are specious investigations driven by preconceived notions that wind up not being born out.
So far in the Mueller investigation, two Trump associates – former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in regards their relationships with Russia – and are cooperating with the Mueller probe. Two more one-time aides – campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates – have been charged with a series of counts including money laundering.
Even if you dismiss the Manafort/Gates charges – they haven’t been found guilty – how can you dismiss the guilty pleas by Papadopoulos and Flynn? If this was a “witch hunt,” then why did these two men plead guilty? If they hadn’t done anything wrong, why plead guilty and agree to cooperate with the investigation?
3. “Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction”
It’s “there.” But whatever.
Both the Mueller investigation and House and Senate Intelligence committees’ investigations are ongoing. It is, therefore, totally impossible to make definitive statements about what has or has not been found.
“The committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said last fall, adding: “The issue of collusion is still open.”
Trump can accurately say that no evidence has been made public that proves collusion between his campaign and Russia. But that’s not what he’s saying. And therefore, he’s wrong.
4. “After one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead.”
Again, there is simply no way Trump can know this based on what we know now. Mueller hasn’t spoken publicly about the status of his investigation since he was appointed in the middle of 2017. The last time Burr gave any sort of major update on the working of his committee’s investigation was in early October 2017. The House Intelligence Committee has devolved in partisan warfare.
Maybe Mueller and the congressional committees looking into Russia and the 2016 election have found “NOTHING.” But, right now, we can’t know that. All we know is that they haven’t announced any findings that prove (or disprove) collusion. So, collusion may be dead. But given that these are ongoing investigations, it could also be very much alive. We just don’t know.