WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s defense team falsely claimed the Justice Department was already investigating him even before the 2016 election and distorted the facts on how the FBI probe into Russian election interference got started.
A look at some of the claims Tuesday during Trump’s impeachment trial:
TRUMP LAWYER JAY SEKULOW: “The president of the United States, before he was the president, was under an investigation. It was called Crossfire Hurricane. It was an investigation led by the FBI.”
THE FACTS: Trump was not under investigation before he took office.
In fact, Trump says he was told that directly and repeatedly by then-FBI Director James Comey. Comey has said the same publicly.
The FBI counterintelligence investigation dubbed Crossfire Hurricane was underway when Trump took office, but that was into whether his campaign more generally coordinated with Russia to tip the election. Agents were also looking criminally at several Trump aides, but that’s different from Trump being under investigation.
The situation did change after a matter of months, when Trump fired Comey in May 2017. After that happened, the FBI began looking into whether Trump had criminally obstructed justice. Former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabe has said the FBI also began investigating whether Trump might have been acting on behalf of Russia.
SEKULOW, pointing to the fact that Nellie Ohr was working for the firm that was researching Trump for the Clinton campaign while her husband, Bruce, was an official at the Justice Department: “You’re No. 4 at the Department of Justice … then the fourth-ranking member at the Department of Justice.”
THE FACTS: Sekulow is vastly overstating Ohr’s position in suggesting systemic bias against Trump at the Justice Department during the 2016 election. Ohr is a career Justice Department official who is not and has never been No. 4 in command.
SEKULOW on the Ohrs: “His wife is working for the firm that is doing the opposition research on him and is communicating with the foreign former spy Christopher Steele to put together the dossier.”
THE FACTS: He’s misrepresenting the Ohrs’ ties to a dossier of raw intelligence on the Trump campaign compiled by Steele, a former British spy whose work was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
It is true that Nellie Ohr worked during the 2016 campaign as an independent contractor for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that sponsored the Steele dossier. Bruce Ohr did pass along to the FBI some open source research his wife had done.
Though Nellie Ohr wrote occasional reports based on open-source information about Trump’s relationship with people in Russia, she has said she did not work with Steele on his dossier or read it until it was public.
A Justice Department inspector general report says Nellie Ohr’s relationship with Fusion GPS ended in September 2016, before her husband’s meetings with the FBI team investigating the Trump campaign.
“Accordingly, by those dates, Ohr’s activities could not have had a direct and predictable effect on his or his wife’s financial interests,” the report states.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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