Monday, February 19, 2018 11:50 am
Fact checking Trump's tweetstorm about the Russia investigation
GLENN KESSLER | Washington Post
In a tweetstorm that started late at night Saturday and continued into Sunday morning, President Donald Trump railed against the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Here's a quick guide to his many misstatements and misleading claims in this Twitter barrage:
"Never said Russia did not meddle"
Trump claims he "never said Russia did not meddle in the election" and then repeats a line in which he essentially disputed that by saying a 400-pound hacker sitting in bed could have been behind the interference.
One might argue that undermines his statement, but in any case, there are numerous instances of Trump suggesting the Russian intervention in the election was a hoax ginned up by Democrats.
He has also denounced the investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign had worked with the Russians, even after meetings and conversations were revealed. But from the start, he has consistently sought to minimize or dispute any possible Russian role in the election.
Here are numerous examples, in the form of a timeline up until Inauguration Day.
When The Washington Post reported on Dec. 9, 2016, that the CIA had concluded that Russia, in its efforts, favored Trump -- a fact confirmed by the special counsel's indictment last week of 13 Russians and three companies in a long-running scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 election -- Trump said on Fox News, "I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it." He asserted the source of the story was not the CIA but Democrats.
According to The Fact Checker's database of Trump claims, Trump in his first year as president then 44 more times denounced the Russian probe as a hoax or witch hunt perpetuated by Democrats.
May 2016: U.S. government says there are indications of attempted cyberattacks on 2016 presidential election.
James R. Clapper Jr., then the director of national intelligence, said his agency had seen indications of attempted cyberattacks on the campaigns. He did not say whether the attempts were successful, whether foreign or domestic hackers were behind them, or which campaign networks were targeted.
June 2016: Russians are blamed for cyberattacks on U.S. campaigns; Trump blames both the Democratic National Committee and Russians for hacks.
June 14: Democratic National Committee officials and independent security experts concluded that Russian government hackers had breached the committee's computer network, gaining access to its database of opposition research on Trump and all email and chat traffic, according to The Post. Russia denied the allegations.
June 15: A hacker identifying only as "Guccifer 2.0" took credit for the DNC breach. Yet that day, Trump said the DNC hacked itself:
"This is all information that has been out there for many years. Much of it is false and/or entirely inaccurate. We believe it was the DNC that did the 'hacking' as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn't hack Hillary Clinton's 33,000 missing emails."
July 2016: More hacked DNC emails released; Trump invites Russia to meddle in the campaign.
WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 emails from the DNC database. Trump, then the GOP presidential nominee, urged Russian hackers to obtain Clinton's private emails that had been deleted.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. ... They probably have them. I'd like to have them released."
Trump later said he was joking. He rejected allegations that the Russians had targeted DNC or that the Russians were attempting to help him get elected. He accused Democrats of fabricating Russian ties to Trump because they were embarrassed about WikiLeaks -- even though the previous month, he had said that the DNC had hacked itself.
August: As the GOP presidential nominee, Trump began receiving intelligence briefings this month. Trump reportedly was briefed on cybersecurity and the Russian government's attempts to interfere in the elections, according to NBC News.
During the next three months, Trump repeatedly denied Russian involvement, blamed the hacks on Democrats and praised WikiLeaks.
Sept. 8: Trump's interview with Larry King aired on RT, a state-funded Russian TV network. Trump said it was "pretty unlikely" that Russians were disrupting the elections, which he deemed an "inappropriate" act.
"I think it's probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it's pretty unlikely. But, you know, who knows?" If Russia were involved, Trump said he hopes "somebody's going to be able to find out so they can end it because it would not be appropriate at all."
Sept. 26: In the first presidential debate, Trump refused to blame Russia.
"I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't -- maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don't know who broke into DNC."
Oct. 7: U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint statement saying they were "confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations."
Oct. 10: In the second presidential debate, Trump again refused to blame Russia.
"I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are -- she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia is because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia."
Oct. 19: In the third and final presidential debate, Trump again refused to blame Russia. When pressed, Trump generally condemned the concept of foreign influence on the election.
Moderator Chris Wallace: The top national security officials of this country do believe that Russia has been behind these hacks. Even if you don't know for sure whether they are, do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American election? Trump: By Russia or anybody else. Wallace: You condemn their interference? Trump: Of course I condemn. I don't know Putin. I have no idea.
December 2016-January 2017: Presidential transition
Dec. 9: The CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win the presidency, The Post reported.
Dec. 11: President-elect Trump called The Post's report "ridiculous" and an excuse made up by Democrats.
"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it. I don't know why, and I think it's just -- you know, they talked about all sorts of things. Every week, it's another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the electoral college. I guess the final numbers are now at 306. She's down to a very low number. No, I don't believe that at all." ("Fox News Sunday")
Dec. 12: Trump tweeted this, even though the hacking was brought up throughout the election: "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?"
Dec. 28: Trump said Americans should move on from Russia allegations and distanced himself from the Obama administration's plans to impose sanctions on Russia for alleged interference.
"I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what's going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I'm not sure we have the kind of security we need."
Jan. 6: The U.S. intelligence community released a declassified report concluding that Russians influenced the election in an effort help Trump get elected. Obama and Trump are briefed on this report.
Jan. 10: CNN and BuzzFeed report about a dossier alleging Trump-Russia ties. The dossier was first reported by Mother Jones. Trump responds that night on Twitter: "FAKE NEWS -- A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
Jan. 11: Trump said for the first time that he thinks Russia was behind the DNC hack.
"As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people."
But later in that same news conference, he backed away from his statement. In subsequent tweets, Trump blamed Democrats and even Republican opponents.
Question: Mr. President-elect, you said, just now, that you believe Russia indeed was responsible for the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta's emails, et cetera. Trump: All right, but you know what, it could have been others also.
FBI is 'spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion'
Trump tweeted: "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign -- there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"
Trump appears to believe that a massive federal agency is run like the 100-person Trump Organization, where very little escapes the attention of the top leadership. The Miami office of the FBI did not act on the tip about the suspected Florida shooter. There is no evidence that agents from that office are involved in the Russia investigation.
"Only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems"
Trump tweeted: "General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!"
Trump repeatedly has tried to turn the tables on Clinton by claiming that she colluded with the Russians. But there no evidence that is the case, and it makes little sense given Russian President Vladimir Putin's intense dislike of Clinton.
The reference to "uranium" is code for Hillary Clinton's alleged role in the approval of the sale of a Canadian company, Uranium One, with mining rights in the United States to Rosatom, Russia's nuclear energy agency. We have fact-checked this repeatedly, since Trump first raised it in the campaign.
Trump suggests the State Department under Clinton had sole approval authority on a uranium rights deal with a company largely owned by Russia's nuclear energy agency. But the State Department is one of nine agencies in the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to vet and sign off on all U.S. transactions involving foreign governments. There is no evidence that Clinton herself got involved in the deal personally, and it is highly questionable this deal even rose to the level of the secretary of state. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also needed to approve, and did approve, the transfer.
Trump often falsely claims that Clinton "gave away" 20 percent of U.S. uranium, but it's actually only 2 percent of an already small total U.S. production.
"Podesta" is code for the false accusation that Clinton campaign manager John Podesta was involved with a Russian company. His brother, Tony Podesta, co-founded the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm, with his brother. But it's a U.S.-based company, not a company in Russia. Trump probably is referring to the Podesta Group being paid $170,000 during six months to represent Sberbank, a Russian bank. The Podesta Group said its work for Sberbank USA was "never about getting sanctions lifted" and "was simply about helping to clarify to what extent our client, the U.S. subsidiary (of Sberbank), was subject to sanctions. We confirmed they were not."
As for the "dirty dossier," Trump is referring to the fact that the political research firm Fusion GPS, which assembled the dossier as part of an assignment for a law firm that worked for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, relied on a British intelligence agent who used Russian sources for his research. So that's a rather big stretch.
Meanwhile, investigators have reached no conclusions about whether Russian involvement changed the outcome of the 2016 election, but Trump's electoral college victory was very narrow in three key states. In fact, his margin of victory in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was smaller than the votes garnered by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, who also won favor with Russian operatives.
"Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran"
Trump: "Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!"
Trump falsely suggests there is something nefarious, worthy of an FBI investigation, about a settlement of claims with Iran. The fishy thing about the deal was not that cash was involved -- Iranian banks were cut off from the banking system because of sanctions -- but the timing of it.
On Jan. 17, 2016, the same day that Iran released American detainees -- including The Post's Jason Rezaian -- the State Department announced a $1.7 billion settlement of claims with Iran.
In the 1970s, the then-pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran in the wake of the revolution.
A key element in the release of the hostages in 1981 was that the United States agreed to release several billion dollars in Iranian gold and bank assets that had been frozen in U.S. banks.
After the 1981 hostage deal, the two countries set up a tribunal in The Hague to litigate outstanding claims against each other. The $400 million remained unresolved, but U.S. officials say a ruling was expected that would have resulted in the return of the $400 million plus billions of dollars in outstanding interest. Instead, concurrent with the detainee negotiations, the two countries negotiated a deal that resulted in a return of the $400 million plus $1.3 billion in interest.
At the time, U.S. officials touted the agreement as a savings for American taxpayers. "Iran is unable to pursue a bigger tribunal award against us, preventing U.S. taxpayers from being obligated to a larger amount of money," Secretary of State John F. Kerry said at the time. Obama said: "For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran."
The Treasury Department said the $1.3 billion in interest was paid out of a fund associated with the tribunal known as the Judgment Fund, which it says is "a source of funding to pay judgments and settlements of claims against the United States when there is no other source of funding."
U.S. officials refused to acknowledge a connection between the payment and the release of the detainees, but a Revolutionary Guard commander openly declared that the money was returned in exchange for the "release of the American spies." An Iranian news report said the cash arrived on the same day that the Americans left Tehran.
Ironically, when the deal was announced, the families of more than a dozen Americans attacked or held hostage by Iranian proxies were outraged. They had been told the $400 million already had been paid to them, as part of a settlement reached by the Clinton administration (and urged on by then-first lady Hillary Clinton), according to an article in Newsweek. But it turned out that the money could not be paid, as Iran had filed a claim for the $400 million in The Hague, and so the families instead received $400 million in U.S. taxpayer funds in 2001. But no one admitted that to the families until Obama announced the new deal 15 years later.