Accuracy in Media

CNN attempted to fact-check President Donald Trump on Thursday after he canceled a meeting with Democrats in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing him of conducting a cover-up of unspecified crimes. It did not go well.

In “Trump spreads false claims about Mueller as Democrats start tightening the screws,” Marshall Cohen of CNN asserted President Trump “spread at least four false claims Wednesday about the conclusions and costs of the Russia investigation while pushing back against Democratic leaders who are trying to pick up where special counsel Robert Mueller left off.”

The first involved “efforts to obstruct the investigation.”

“The Wall Street Journal just wrote today, just a little while ago … I saw it, ‘Mr. Mueller wasn’t obstructed in any way.’ This is the Wall Street Journal editorial today,” the president was quoted as saying.

In particular, Cohen took issue with a paragraph in the Wall Street Journal editorial that read: “He wants a show,” referring to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) “He wants to use (former White House counsel Don) McGahn as a prop to spend three hours claiming that Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the Mueller investigation. Yet Mr. Mueller wasn’t obstructed in any way, his copious report was released for all to see, and there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”

Cohen’s response reads, “The editorial cited by Trump isn’t an accurate portrayal of the Mueller report. Mueller found substantial evidence of obstruction by Trump, though his hands were tied by Justice Department policies from bringing an indictment. The report also laid out how some Trump aides took steps that hampered the investigation, and others were charged with lying.”

As to the steps taken to hamper the investigation, the piece contends there was “substantial evidence” Trump obstructed, including his efforts to fire the special counsel and have McGahn lie about it to the press.” It further claims “Prosecutors from Mueller’s team went to extraordinary lengths to explain how they had everything they needed to charge Trump but didn’t, at least partially because of the Justice Department policy of presidential immunity.”

But there was no “effort” to fire Mueller. The president always had the power to fire Mueller and chose not to. Moreover, the only evidence cited in the Mueller report that Trump ordered McGahn to fire Mueller is a New York Times story from Jan. 25, 2018, that made the claim based solely on anonymous sources – a fact CNN did not acknowledge.

Attorney General William Barr declined immediately to prosecute the president on obstruction of justice charges and pointed out in a press conference that he disagreed with some of the legal theories by which Mueller’s team asserted the president had obstructed justice.

Will Chamberlain of Human Events wrote that the dispute is over subsection 1512(C)(2) of the U.S. Code and that Mueller “adopted an expansive, acontextual and constitutionally questionable interpretation of … it and used it to justify an extensive investigation into potential obstruction of justice by President Trump.”

Barr’s interpretation, wrote Chamberlain, who is a constitutional attorney, “was for more textually and constitutionally sound” and “would have made it almost impossible for Mueller to justify investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.”

Cohen admits Trump could have invoked executive privilege and prevented his aides from testifying, but he made them all available. But not all of the 500 people Mueller’s team interviewed required Trump’s approval.

He says “Trump touts his ‘transparency’ with the Mueller investigation, [but] he never mentions his adamant refusal to agree to a sit-down interview.” What Cohen doesn’t point out is that Trump’s legal team provided detailed answers to every written question the Mueller team presented.

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