Trump bends the truth as he tries to beat back Russia probe
President Donald Trump on Thursday peppered his Twitter feed with falsehoods, claiming the media is ignoring a controversy heâs dubbed âspygateâ and is maliciously pushing the idea that he fired FBI director James Comey because of the Russia probe â" an explanation the president him self offered in the days after the ousting.
It was another example of Trump hammering the media as he tries to beat back damaging stories about special counsel Robert Muellerâs investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, the Trump campaign and whether the president tried to obstruct justice.
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It also comes as House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) undercut Trumpâs claim that the FBI corruptly embedded a spy in his campaign for political purposes, suggesting instead that the agency acted appropriately by having an FBI informant contact Trump campaign aides when evidence of Russian election meddling surfaced.
But Gowdyâs efforts to knock down the presidentâs accusations of wrongdoing by the FBI did not stop Trump from renewing them Thursday morning, when he wrote online that âthe corrupt Mainstream Media is working overtime not to mentio n the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants), into my campaign! Surveillance much?â
Contrary to the presidentâs claim that the media has ignored allegations that his campaign was the subject of inappropriate Justice Department surveillance, those claims have received significant media attention, as has, more recently, Gowdyâs rejection of them.
Perhaps even more truth-stretching was the presidentâs claim online that âI never fired James Comey because of Russiaâ but that âthe Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!â
That argument by the president runs directly counter to the explanation he offered NBC Newsâs Lester Holt in the days after he fired Comey, when he said had already made up his mind to fire the then-FBI director before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended it and that he did so with the bureauâs Russia investigation weighing on his mind.
Trumpâs su ggestion Thursday that he did not fire Comey because of the Russia probe also contradicts the explanation that Rudy Giuliani, a member of the presidentâs outside legal team, offered earlier this month. Giuliani told Fox Newsâs Sean Hannity in an interview in early May that Trump had fired Comey because the then-FBI director âwould not, among other things, say that he wasnât a target of the investigation.â
Nonetheless, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) seemed willing Thursday morning to accept the presidentâs version of events, telling CNN that his understanding was that Trump had fired Comey because âhe was concerned about the way that Mr. Comey had handled the Hillary Clinton investigation,â an explanation that matches the recommendation offered by Rosenstein. Even after the CNN anchor played for Lee a clip of Trump saying he had fired Comey over the Russia probe, the Utah senator insisted that âit was also about the Hillary investigation.â
The presidentâ s tweets about Comey and spying allegations followed one earlier on Thursday in which he lashed out at Bob Iger, the chief of ABCâs parent company, Disney, alleging that the network operates under a âdouble standardâ that allowed for the firing of pro-Trump comedian Roseanne Barr over a racist remark she made on Twitter but did not similarly punish ABC News correspondent Brian Ross for erroneous reporting about Muellerâs investigation last year.
Ross reported last December that former national security adviser Michael Flynn would testify that the president had "directed him to make contact with the Russians,â an inaccuracy that prompted ABC to suspend its chief investigative correspondent for four weeks and reassign him to a department where he no longer covers the president.
Despite Trumpâs complaint that ABC did not apologize for its mistake, the network issued a statement at the time reading, "we deeply regret and apologize for the serious e rror we made yesterday.â