As President Donald Trump reminded the world this week — that he believes the “Fake News Media” is “the real enemy of the people” — we remind you that it’s Fact Check Friday!
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Add Donald Trump as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Donald Trump news, video, and analysis from ABC News. Donald Trump Add Interest The week was dominated by President Trump’s highly controversial meeting and news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the political fallout that ensued.
But before getting into the facts of the matter, we start you off with some thoughts from two American leaders:
“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up. We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet-driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, “Oh man.” Now they just keep on lying.” — President Barack Obama, July 17, 2018, in Johannesburg, South Africa
“What’s so interesting in this town is that when somebody says something, it’s never believed. And I got that. Why would you believe when it seems like in this town when anybody opens their mouth we know they’re not somehow telling the truth?” -– Former Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, July 12, 2018, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
(MORE: Migrant mistruths and more: FACT CHECK FRIDAY)
“What is the server saying?”
Standing next to Vladimir Putin, President Trump was asked directly on Monday if he would denounce Russian election meddling and warn the Russian president to never to do it again. Instead of answering directly, Trump launched into a conspiratorial, wandering response about what he sees as deficiencies in the intelligence investigation that concluded Russia, and specifically Putin himself, are to blame for the election interference.
Pres. Trump says intelligence community believes Russia was behind 2016 election interference, but Pres. Putin says Russia was not.
“I don’t see any reason why it would be…I have confidence in both parties.” https://t.co/dx3jBvziSv pic.twitter.com/7yMBvMhuHJ
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 16, 2018
“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server — haven’t they taken the server,” Trump said, referencing the Democratic National Committee’s computer server that was infiltrated by the Russians.
“What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing; where are they?” the president added.
(MORE: A look at Trump’s frequently fact-challenged week)
His first claim suggests the FBI did not have access to all the computer evidence it needed from the DNC, and that somehow, if it did, more would have been learned. It’s true the FBI didn’t take hardware away from the DNC, but the facts are that the FBI was given access to copies of the cloud data that it needed. Much of it was copied (and not from one single server) through a process called imaging by Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to respond to the intrusion.
Second, the case of the “Pakistani gentleman,” also referred to as the “Pakistani mystery man” by Trump and some in the right-wing, conspiratorial blogosphere, was settled two weeks ago.
Imran Awan, a former congressional IT specialist (who never worked for the DNC as Trump falsely claimed) was investigated for 18 months by federal prosecutors and eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of bank fraud, essentially for improperly buying office supplies. Federal investigators took the unusual step of including in his plea agreement that he was not, as suggested by conspiracy theorists, a Democratic-hired Pakistani spy-terrorist stealing highly sensitive data on Capitol Hill.
Nevertheless, the president suggested he wanted a deeper dive on these issues before he was willing to blame Putin to his face for election meddling.
(MORE: Fact Check Friday: Trump’s impromptu performance packed with falsehoods)
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion”
This brings us to the next fact check: Trump’s highly suspect claim this week that he accepts the findings of his intelligence community.
Following his disastrous news conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday, many Democrats and Republicans alike were aghast that the president of the United States said: he didn’t know why it would have been Russia that meddled; called Putin’s denial “extremely strong and powerful;” entertained Putin’s idea to have Russian operatives interrogate a former U.S. ambassador; called the U.S. “foolish;” and placed equal blame on the United States for poor relations with Russia.
So on Tuesday, he said he felt compelled to clarify that he does, in fact, agree with the assessment that Russia meddled in the election.
But he doesn’t. He clearly doesn’t.
The “clarifying” statement actually contradicts the intelligence community findings!
“And I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times, I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also.”
It was that last line, “Could be other people also.”
Leah Millis/ReutersPresident Donald Trump’s prepared remarks show his own handwritten note “There was no collusion” at the start of a meeting with members of the U.S. Congress at the White House in Washington, July 17, 2018.
The problem is, it’s not true, according to the intelligence community. As a reminder, the Director of National Intelligence concluded: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
President Trump wasn’t alone at that news conference. Vladimir Putin spoke alongside him and rattled off a number of his own false and misleading statements — creating a missed opportunity for President Trump to fact check him in real time. Here are Putin’s claims that Trump could have chimed in on:
“The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including election process.”
The U.S. intelligence community concluded the opposite.
“Officers of law enforcement and intelligence service of the United States, whom we believe are — who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia.”
Putin was asserting a false claim that U.S. government officials helped an American-born businessman commit financial crimes in Russia. In reality, Putin is seeking revenge for the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that sanctions Russian officials involved in human rights abuses and corruption.
“When President Trump was at Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow.”
Putin said he didn’t even know Trump was in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, arguing he, therefore, could not have gathered compromising information on him. However, Politifact notes that a business associate of Trump’s testified under oath there were high-level discussions about a possible meeting, but that it never transpired. It’s possible Putin never knew, but that seems dubious.