The federal investigation into whether Russia actively sought to help Donald J. Trump win the White House in 2016 has been hanging over his head since even before the election. As president, he has repeatedly criticized the special counsel inquiry and has questioned whether it is the best use of time and taxpayer funds.
Some of the criticism has amounted to presidential opinion — like in calling James B. Comey “the worst F.B.I. director in history.” On Twitter alone, he has used the words “witch hunt” in over 100 posts.
“That whole situation is a rigged witch hunt,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday at the White House. “It’s a totally rigged deal. They should be looking at the other side.”
But hundreds of other statements, since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, included bold assertions about the Russia investigation that have demanded being fact checked.
He hasn’t always been wrong. Mr. Trump’s estimates of the inquiry’s price tag, and his accusations of political bias as demonstrated in texts between F.B.I. officials, are among presidential claims that have passed the truth test.
An analysis by The New York Times found more than 250 examples of exaggerated, misleading or flat-out false claims by Mr. Trump about the Russia investigation.
Here is a look at how those statements have evolved since the start of his presidency — and how they stand up against the facts.
Mr. Trump has consistently questioned the basic facts of the American intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to aid his campaign.
Mr. Trump has suggested at least 19 other times that Democrats fabricated concerns about Russian interference as an excuse for losing the election.
(Repetitions in 2018: July 16 | June 23 | May 26 | Feb. 20 | Repetitions in 2017: Dec. 28 | Dec. 15| Nov. 26 | Oct. 25 | Oct. 16 | Oct. 11 | Sept. 22 | Aug. 3| May 30 | May 11 | May 11| April 12 | Feb. 26 | Feb. 17 | Feb. 16)
Based on the findings of the private security firm CrowdStrike, the Democratic National Committee said in the summer of 2016 that it was hacked by Russian operatives. A month later, nearly 20,000 of the Democratic Party’s internal emails were released. The American intelligence community, in an October 2016 report, said Russians were behind the attack — a finding that was backed up by indictments issued in July against 12 Russian intelligence officers.
Mr. Trump has pointed out at least 32 other times that the F.B.I. did not directly examine the D.N.C.’s servers. In doing so, he has suggested that the D.N.C. was not hacked during the 2016 campaign.
Mr. Trump is right that the F.B.I. never physically seized the servers from the D.N.C. headquarters. However, CrowdStrike provided forensics to federal investigators — which James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has called an “appropriate substitute.”
(Repetitions in 2018: July 17 | July 16 | July 14 | July 7 | July 1 | June 28 | June 7 | May 27 | May 20 | April 26 | April 21 | April 20 | April 18 | April 15 | Jan. 11 | Repetitions in 2017: Nov. 10 | Nov. 7 | Aug. 11 | Aug. 10 | July 25 | July 9 | July 7 | June 22 | June 22 | May 13 | May 7 | April 30 | April 28 | April 26 | April 21 | March 30 | March 3)
Mr. Trump has also blamed the D.N.C. for inadequately protecting itself from cyberattacks. He told “Face the Nation” that “the D.N.C. should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked” and compared it to the Republican National Committee.
The Times reported in December 2016 that Russian operatives did hack the R.N.C.’s systems. In January 2017, Mr. Comey said in congressional testimony that the hackers had penetrated old computer systems that were no longer used by the committee. But Mr. Comey said there was no evidence that the R.N.C.’s newer computer systems — or ones used by the Trump campaign — were hacked successfully.
Mr. Trump has referred five other times to Imran Awan, a Pakistani-American and former I.T. specialist who had worked part-time for several Democratic staffs in the House, including Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the D.N.C.’s former chairwoman. Mr. Awan was arrested last summer on unrelated charges of obtaining a fraudulent bank loan and pleaded guilty in July. Conservative media commentators have suggested that Mr. Awan may have stolen and leaked the Democratic National Committee’s emails, again implying that the Russian hacking never happened.
Mr. Trump’s own Justice Department has rejected this as a conspiracy theory.
On at least eight other occasions in his presidency, Mr. Trump suggested that Russia might not be the culprit. He has cited Moscow’s denial — or explicitly denied it himself — and offered other explanations for the hacking.
The American intelligence community, the investigators with the Senate and House intelligence committees and technology companies have all concluded that Russia interfered in the election.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly asserted that Mr. Putin’s government did not want him to win the American presidential election. He once claimed that Russia “spent a lot of money on fighting me” and another time asserted that Mr. Putin “wants Hillary.”
Not only does this contradict various American intelligence reports, Mr. Putin himself said both before and after the November 2016 vote that he wanted Mr. Trump to win because of Mr. Trump’s desire to restore Russian-American relations.
The president has confronted reports of contacts between his campaign and influential Russian by playing down his ties to political aides or by shifting the blame to Democrats.
Mr. Trump has flat out denied, at least three times, that several people in the Trump campaign met with or spoke to people associated with Russia.
Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed lifting sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December 2016, and resigned for misleading White House officials about those conversations. Mr. Trump’s son, son-in-law and former campaign chairman — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort — met with a Russian lawyer who had connections to the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign. And two foreign policy advisers to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, met with people linked to the Kremlin before the 2016 vote. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump and advised him during the campaign, met with the Russian ambassador at least twice in 2016.
Mr. Trump has also played down the roles of campaign aides who had met with people linked to the Kremlin.
It is not clear how high Mr. Papadopoulos or Mr. Page ranked in the Trump campaign hierarchy. But it is implausible to suggest that Mr. Flynn, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Kushner and the junior Mr. Trump played “minor” parts in the campaign.
(Repetitions: Oct. 31, 2017)
Mr. Manafort was the Trump campaign chairman during the last stretch of the Republican primary campaign. He worked for the campaign for 144 days — not 49 days or three and a half months, as Mr. Trump alternately has claimed.
The Washington Post first reported in October that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign paid for opposition research that led to a dossier about Mr. Trump compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. Mr. Trump has repeatedly accused Democrats of “colluding” with Russia. But it was a conservative website, The Washington Free Beacon, that first paid a research firm for the opposition research. It stopped when Mr. Trump won the nomination. The firm, Fusion GPS, was then paid by the Democrats for the research that became the dossier.
Collusion, which is generally understood as secretive and often illicit collaboration, has no defined legal meaning. Mr. Steele did use Russian sources to compile his dossier, and reported his findings to the F.B.I. But there is no evidence anyone from the Clinton campaign met with Russian officials directly and conspired to manipulate the American election.
(Repetitions in 2018: Aug. 14 | Aug. 9 | Aug. 6 | Aug. 6 | Aug. 3 | Aug. 1 | July 31 | July 29 | July 27 | July 7 | June 8 | June 2 | May 17 | April 28 | April 26 | March 25 | March 11 | Feb. 17 | Jan. 11 | Jan. 5 | Repetitions in 2017: Oct. 25)
As evidence of Democratic collusion, Mr. Trump has said John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, owned a company in Russia.
Mr. Podesta does not own a company in Russia. The consulting firm that he and his brother, Tony Podesta, co-founded is based in Washington, not Russia. (The firm did, however, lobby on behalf of a Russian bank.)
Mr. Trump has accused Mrs. Clinton of selling American uranium to Russia at least 16 other times, sometimes briefly referring to the issue simply as “Uranium One.”
Uranium One is a uranium production company with holdings in the United States. Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state when the Obama administration allowed Russia’s nuclear agency to purchase the company. The State Department was one of nine agencies — as well as federal nuclear regulator and a state regulator — that had to sign off on the sale. There is no evidence that Mrs. Clinton was personally involved.
This is Mr. Trump’s latest defense.
Mr. Trump is playing a semantics game. “Collusion” is not a crime in the federal code of criminal procedure, but a potential conspiracy between a campaign and a foreign government that violates American election laws is indeed illegal.
Mr. Trump has asserted that he and his campaign are the victims in the Russia investigation.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed that President Barack Obama did not act — sometimes by adding: “because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win” — to sow doubts about the independence of those who accuse Russia of election interference.
The Obama administration warned Russian officials against interfering before the election in August, September and October, and imposed sanctions in December 2016.
The Times did not report that Mr. Obama ordered surveillance of Mr. Trump’s phone conversations, nor did the headline ever change.
Mr. Trump repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration “spied on” the Trump campaign in referring to the process of “unmasking.” When Americans’ communications are swept up in surveillance of foreigners, their names are normally obscured to protect their privacy. Only authorized national security officials can ask to have the identities of Americans “unmasked.”
Mr. Trump is correct that Trump campaign officials were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets and their identities were unmasked — a request made by Susan E. Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser. Mr. Trump then accused Ms. Rice of committing a crime.
But that was not unlawful or unusual. The National Security Agency revealed almost 2,000 American identities in 2016, and more than 2,200 in 2015, according to a statistical report. Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the agency’s former director, said in congressional testimony last June that the N.S.A. approves requests only if revealing the names of Americans will help the official understand intelligence better, “not so you can use that knowledge indiscriminately.”
Mr. Trump first made this claim in January and has repeated it at least 11 other times. It refers to accusations that the Justice Department used unverified information from Mr. Steele’s dossier in its court application to put Mr. Page under surveillance.
The F.B.I. cited information from Mr. Steele’s dossier, but also other information in its application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The initial application was filed in October 2016, after Mr. Page had left the Trump campaign.
Mr. Trump has claimed repeatedly that the special counsel investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III was opened because of the information in Mr. Steele’s dossier.
Republicans who hold the majority vote on the House Intelligence Committee have confirmed that the investigation was the result of Mr. Papadopoulos telling an Australian ambassador in May 2016 that the Russians had political dirt on Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Trump has described the special counsel investigation as “rigged,” given the political affiliations of the people on the team. He’s referred to them as “13 Angry Democrats” since May, and increased the count to 17 in late July.
A spokesman for the special counsel’s office confirmed the names of 17 investigators on Mr. Mueller’s legal team in May. An additional prosecutor, Uzo Asonye, was later brought on to help in the case against Mr. Manafort, raising the number on the team to 18.
Fourteen of the 18 have donated to Democratic candidates in the past or self-identify as Democrats — including Mr. Asonye, who donated to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
But Mr. Trump ignores the fact that the political affiliations of the other four are unknown. Mr. Mueller himself is a registered Republican, and he was appointed as F.B.I. director by President George W. Bush in 2001.
It is worth noting that four other prosecutors have been named in notices of appearances in certain cases initially brought by the special counsel. The Washington Post has reported that they have not joined Mr. Mueller’s team, but may take on those cases after the special counsel investigation ends.
(Repetitions: Aug. 14 | Aug. 9 | Aug. 5 | Aug 1 | Jul 29 | July 27 | July 21 | July 21 | July 16 | July 10 | July 7 | June 28 | June 28 | June 25 | June 20 | June 17 | June 15 | June 15 | June 7 | June 7| June 7 | June 4 | May 29 | May 29 | May 27 | May 26 | May 26 | May 20 | May 7 | May 5 | April 26 | April 11 | April 9 | March 18)
As evidence of the “scam” against his campaign, Mr. Trump has cited the links between Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, and Mrs. Clinton at least seven other times.
Mr. McCabe’s wife ran for a seat in the Virginia State Senate in 2015, and accepted nearly $500,000 in contributions from Common Good VA. That political action committee is run by Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a longtime fund-raiser and friend of Mrs. Clinton. Mrs. Clinton did not donate to the campaign.
The claim that the Obama administration planted a spy inside the Trump campaign first emerged in Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts in mid-May; he repeated it at least 13 times by early June. It refers to reports that an F.B.I. informant had contacted Trump campaign aides.
In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.
Mr. Trump also falsely claimed that James R. Clapper Jr., the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, “admitted” to spying on his campaign. Mr. Clapper said the exact opposite.
In August 2016, Peter Strzok, a senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agent, made disparaging remarks about Mr. Trump in texts sent to Lisa Page, a former F.B.I. lawyer. The Justice Department’s inspector general said in a June report that the texts “cast a cloud” over the F.B.I.’s handling of the investigation and its credibility. But the report did not find political bias that directly affected the investigation.
Mr. Strzok was fired on Aug. 13 for violating bureau policies.
The special counsel’s investigation reported expenditures of about $16.7 million from May 17, 2017, to March 31, 2018 — so Mr. Trump’s estimate is reasonable. But there is an important caveat: About $9 million was in indirect costs that the Justice Department would have spent regardless of the investigation.
According to Mr. Trump, officials and even certain developments in the Russia investigation have absolved his campaign of wrongdoing.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly said the following people have cleared his campaign of wrongdoing: Mr. Clapper, Mr. Comey, Jeh Johnson, the former Department of Homeland Security secretary, and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Republicans on House Intelligence Committee released a memo accusing the Justice Department of monitoring Mr. Page without disclosing who paid for Mr. Steele’s dossier. Mr. Trump claimed that the memo proved his campaign did not collude with Russia. He also later said his innocence was verified by a Democratic memo that responded to some of the Republican claims.
Neither memo explicitly clears Mr. Trump of collusion.
Republicans on the committee said in March that they had found no evidence of collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia; a report they released in April concluded the same. But in their own report, Democrats disputed the Republicans’ findings, saying that Republicans absolved the Trump campaign without doing due diligence.
Memos written by Mr. Comey, and released in April, do not mention collusion. That is not the same as clearing anyone of collusion, nor obstruction of justice, which is one of the issues being examined by the special counsel investigation.
The Justice Department’s inspector general released an internal report in June that criticized Mr. Comey and other F.B.I. agents for their handling of the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. But the report did not examine or issue conclusions about the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
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