One week after the redacted Mueller report’s release, here’s a look at claims the administration has made over the report and how they measure up to what the report actually says.
Ever since Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of the report was released, President Donald Trump has claimed that the report states there was “no obstruction” – he’s continued making this claim since the redacted report was released.
On a tirade over the Mueller report, Trump tweeted Thursday that the report’s “end result was No Collusion, No Obstruction. Amazing!”
Facts first: Trump is wrong on obstruction but correct on collusion.
The report plainly states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him” on questions of obstruction. Mueller also writes that “we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct” and were “unable to reach” a judgment on the question of obstruction.
Trump is correct, however, that the report did not find collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. While the report did not establish “collusion” between Trump’s associates or campaign and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, Mueller wrote that members of the campaign knew they would benefit from illegal Russian actions to influence the election, and they did not take criminal steps to help Russia interfere in the campaign.
During this same tweet storm, Trump attacked reports “by the Fake News Media,” claiming he “never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller.”
Facts first: The report confirms that McGahn was told to get Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, then told to lie about ever being asked to fire Mueller.
From multiple interviews with McGahn and others, the report states that after news broke saying Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller, “the President … sought to have McGahn deny that he had been directed to remove the Special Counsel.” McGahn rejected this command and “insisted his memory of the President’s direction to remove the Special Counsel was accurate,” the report states.
Later, in a conversation with McGahn, Trump asked, “Did I say the word ‘fire’?” McGahn replied, “What you said is, ‘Call Rod (Rosenstein), tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.” Trump replied that he never said “fire” and merely wanted McGahn to bring Rosenstein’s attention to the perceived issue and leave it to him, according to the report.
McGahn, however, understood Trump as saying “Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go,” the report says.
Trump Tower meeting
During a press gaggle, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked about the famed 2016 Trump Tower meeting. She indicated that Donald Trump Jr.’s initial statement after reports of the meeting remained accurate and that Trump Jr. received “total exoneration from that” through the Mueller report.
CNN’s Jim Acosta asked Conway, “Why were we originally told a bogus story about that, that the meeting was about Russian adoptions?” Conway disagreed with Acosta’s characterization, pointing out that Trump Jr.’s statement said the meeting was “primarily” about Russian adoptions.
Facts first: Suggesting that Trump Jr.’s initial statement on the meeting was vindicated by the Mueller report is incorrect.
In Trump Jr.’s statement to The New York Times in July 2017, “Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program. The statement did not address whether the presidential campaign was discussed.”
The Mueller report, however, outlines how Trump Jr. was promised ” ‘official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia’ as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ ” In response to this offer, Trump Jr. wrote back that “if it’s what you say I love it.” The meeting was then planned.
According to the report, when the Russian lawyer who Trump Jr. and associates met with at Trump Tower could not provide incriminating information on Clinton, the conversation turned to the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on several top Russian officials. Russia, in response to these sections, banned all adoptions from Russia to the US.
Suggesting that the meeting was “primarily” about Russian adoptions is entirely misleading. The Mueller report states the reason the Trump administration was interested in the meeting was the promised “dirt” on Clinton. The claim also ignores the discussion about the Magnitsky Act, which is documented in the report.
Testifying before Mueller
Trump tweeted Monday that “the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller.”
Mueller and his team interviewed Hope Hicks, Sarah Sanders, both top campaign officials, along with the campaign’s first manager, Corey Lewandowski, the campaign’s former chairman Paul Manafort, the campaign CEO Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Facebook ads from Russia
At the Time 100 summit Tuesday, Kushner claimed that during its efforts in the 2016 US presidential election, Russia had purchased “some” or “a couple” of advertisements on Facebook.
Facts first: Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election through social media amounted to more than “a couple” of Facebook ads.
The Internet Research Agency, a group backed by the Russian government, “purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000,” the report says, citing Facebook.
The Internet Research Agency promoted groups it created on Facebook with these advertisements. The agency’s posts on these pages reached between 29 million and 126 million US persons, according to the report. While the effects of these efforts on the 2016 election are up for debate, Kushner’s characterization as the agency purchasing “a couple of Facebook ads” is incorrect.