President Donald Trump went on Fox & Friends to talk about the inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the 2016 election on Friday. His comments contained at least four significant and demonstrable lies.
Let’s go through them.
“They were plotting against my election,” Trump said, in perhaps the biggest of the four lies.
This is not true. Inspector General Michael Horowitz was quite clear on this point in the report, which reviewed the FBI’s handling of both the Clinton email investigation and the early stages of the Trump-Russia probe. “We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political bias, directly affected the specific investigative decisions we reviewed,” Horowitz concluded.
Trump did eventually confront this uncomfortable fact during the interview. He claimed the no bias conclusion was irresponsible, a throwaway line at the end of the report.
“It was a pretty good report, and then I say the IG blew it at the end,” Trump told Fox’s Steve Doocy. The IG report was a horror show. I thought that one sentence of conclusion was ridiculous.”
The conclusion said that the FBI wasn’t biased was not a throwaway conclusion at the end of the report, but a conclusion that’s examined in-depth and repeated with some frequency throughout the report. Chapters five and 12 of the more than 500-page report, for example, look at anti-Trump text messages sent by Peter Strzok, the FBI’s deputy director for counterintelligence, to see if Strzok had allowed his anti-Trump sentiments to affect the investigation.
Investigators took a deep look at Strzok’s conduct after they came across the texts that seemingly threatened the Trump campaign and examined internal FBI records of the meetings concerning Trump that Strzok was involved in. According to Horowitz, they found that “Strzok was not the sole decisionmaker for any of the specific investigative decisions examined,” nor was there any evidence that he exercised inappropriate influence over any investigative decisions.
The conclusion that there was no bias, in short, wasn’t “one line” — it was a conclusion they arrived at after examining a tremendous amount of evidence, and a major focus of the report.
The third Trump lie is that the IG report somehow exonerated him on the question of collusion with Russia during the campaign. “I did nothing wrong, there was no collusion, there was no obstruction. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that,” Trump said. “I think that the Mueller investigation has been totally discredited.”
This is actually a number of different lies packed into three short sentences; a Russian nesting doll of lies, if you’ll pardon the metaphor.
The IG report did not come to any conclusions about the true nature of Trump-Russia ties. It only covered the appropriateness of the FBI’s conduct in 2016. It couldn’t come to any conclusions about obstruction of justice because Trump didn’t become president until 2017. Likewise, it couldn’t discredit the Mueller investigation because Mueller didn’t take over the investigation until President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey last May.
And that brings us to our final lie. Fox’s Doocy asked Trump a leading question — “Should James Comey be locked up?” — and the president responded as expected:
Certainly, they just seem like very criminal acts to me. What he did was criminal. What he did was so bad in terms of our Constitution, in terms of the well-being of our country.
Once again, Horowitz’s report closely examined questions raised by Comey’s conduct. He was harshly critical of the former FBI director — “In key moments, then Director Comey chose to deviate from the FBI’s and the Department’s established procedures and norms and instead engaged in his own subjective, ad hoc decisionmaking” — but there’s no evidence in the report that Comey violated any kind of criminal statute, let alone acted unconstitutionally.
In fact, the report concludes, Comey’s decisions during the Clinton email investigation, while questionable, came from his professional judgment and were not the result of any malign intent.
“Comey’s decision was the result of his consideration of the evidence that the FBI had collected during the course of the investigation and his understanding of the proof required to pursue a prosecution under the relevant statutes,” as Horowitz puts it when discussing his closing of the Clinton email case.
Trump’s characterization of the IG report is thus basically wrong in every way.