WASHINGTON (AP) — Some things aren’t adding up in President Donald Trump’s account of the investigation into his campaign’s relationship with Russians, an inquiry he says “I respect,” yet considers a “witch hunt.”
The matter vastly overshadowed anything else said and done by the administration over the past week. Yet in the nooks and crannies of Trump’s rhetoric and that of his aides, statements on jobs, foreign policy and more also call for a second look.
A review from another wild week in Washington:
TRUMP, on his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey: “I actually thought when I made that decision — and I also got a very, very strong recommendation, as you know, from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.” — News conference Thursday with his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos.
THE FACTS: The recommendation he cites came after Trump decided to fire Comey, according to Rosenstein and to Trump’s own previous statement taking sole ownership of the decision.
In an interview with NBC two days after the May 9 Comey dismissal, Trump said he had been planning to fire Comey for months, and linked it with the FBI’s Russia investigation. “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
On Thursday, Rosenstein told senators in a closed-door briefing that he had been informed of Trump’s decision to fire Comey before he wrote his memo providing a rationale for that act, said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
TRUMP: “Even my enemies have said there is no collusion.” — Thursday news conference.
THE FACTS: Democrats have not absolved Trump on whether his campaign and Russian officials coordinated efforts last year to disadvantage his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Several have said they have not seen evidence of collusion, but that’s not to say they are satisfied it did not happen.
Trump has cited James Clapper, the director of national intelligence until Trump took office Jan. 20, among others, as being “convinced” there was no collusion.
Clapper said this past week that while a report he issued in January did not uncover collusion, he did not know at the time that the FBI was digging deeply into “potential political collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians” and he was unaware of what the bureau might have found. The FBI inquiry continues, as do congressional investigations and, now, one by the special counsel.
TRUMP: “I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.” — Coast Guard Academy speech Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Trump is claiming credit for something that started under his predecessor. President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, spoke about the modernization of the Coast Guard fleet and design work on a new heavy polar ice breaker a year ago in a speech to graduating Coast Guard cadets.
TRUMP: “Obamacare is collapsing. It’s dead. It’s gone. There’s nothing to compare anything to because we don’t have health care in this country. You just look at what’s happening. Aetna just pulled out. Other insurance companies are pulling out. We don’t have health care. Obamacare is a fallacy. It’s gone.” — Thursday news conference.
THE FACTS: He’s venting and not to be taken literally. Obama’s health care law remains in effect and people are using it. As of last count, 12.2 million signed up for private health plans through HealthCare.gov and state markets that offer federally subsidized coverage. Separately another estimated 12 million were made eligible for Medicaid through the law’s expansion of that program. It’s true that many people who buy their own health insurance are facing another year of big premium increases and shrinking choices.
Trump worked with House Republicans to pass a bill that would roll back much of the health law and the Senate is considering the legislation.
Associated Press writers Josh Lederman, Ricardo-Alonso Zaldivar and Jim Drinkard contributed to this report.