WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to discredit a highly anticipated report on the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump is attacking the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller by falsely claiming it was biased and conflicted.
He suggested in remarks to reporters Wednesday that Mueller’s appointment was inappropriately made by the Justice Department and that Mueller arbitrarily decided “out of the blue” to put together the report as part of his two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. That’s not the case.
Trump also falsely asserted the U.S. economy is the greatest ever and overstated the nature of his win in the 2016 race.
A look at the claims and the reality:
TRUMP: “Again I say, a deputy, because of the fact that the attorney general didn’t have the courage to do it himself, a deputy that’s appointed appoints another man to write a report.”
THE FACTS: The attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions didn’t lack courage in the matter; he lacked standing. He recused himself from anything to do with the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia because his work for the campaign placed him in a potential conflict of interest. It then fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to decide whether to appoint a special counsel, and he did.
TRUMP: “I know that he’s conflicted and I know that his best friend is Comey, who’s a bad cop.”
THE FACTS: Though James Comey succeeded Mueller as FBI director, and though they served together in the Bush administration, the men are not known to be social friends. There is certainly no evidence, as Trump has repeatedly suggested, that they are “best friends.”
TRUMP, on the Mueller report: “It’s sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report.”
THE FACTS: Mueller didn’t wake up one day “out of the blue” and decide he wanted to write a report. It’s mandated under the regulation that spells out the grounds for his appointment and duties as special counsel.
TRUMP: “I got 306 electoral votes against 223. That’s a tremendous victory. I got 63 million more — I got 63 million votes. And now somebody just writes a report?”
THE FACTS: He did not have as lopsided a victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton as he suggests.
Trump did indeed win nearly 63 million votes in the 2016 election, but it was fewer than the 65 million for Clinton, who won the popular vote after racking up lopsided victories in big states such as New York and California, according to election data compiled by The Associated Press. Clinton, however, lost the presidency due to Trump’s winning margin in the Electoral College, which came after he narrowly won less populous Midwestern states, including Michigan and Wisconsin.
As is typical, Trump also misstates the Electoral College vote. The official count was 304 to 227, according to an AP tally of the electoral votes in every state.
TRUMP: “I want to see the report. And you know who will want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we’ve ever had.”
THE FACTS: The president is vastly exaggerating what has been a mild improvement in growth and hiring. The economy is healthy but not nearly one of the greatest in U.S. history.
The economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.9 percent last year, a solid pace. But it was just the fastest in four years. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, a level it has not yet reached under Trump. And growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.
Independent economists widely expect slower growth this year as the effects of the Trump administration’s tax cuts fade, trade tensions and slower global growth hold back exports, and higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow to buy cars and homes.