Accuracy in Media

Word has gone out to the mainstream media to write stories that say President Trump continues to attack the Mueller investigation to soften the blow that will come Thursday when the report is released to Congress and the public.

Bloomberg, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, NBC, PBS and others produced stories along these lines – all of which characterized recent tweets by the president as, according to the Associated Press, “an effort to undermine potential disclosures on Russia, his 2016 campaign and the aftermath.”

The AP story – “Trump keeps attacking as redacted Russia report due Thursday,” by Michael Balsamo and Jonathan Lemire – said Trump “unleashed a series of tweets Monday focusing on the previously released summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions – including a crucial one on obstruction of justice that Trump again misrepresented – produced by Attorney General William Barr.”

Then, without stating what was “again misrepresented,” it quotes a Trump tweet that read: “Mueller, and the A.G. based on Mueller’s findings (and great intelligence), have already RULED No Collusion, No Obstruction. These were crimes committed by Crooked Hillary, the DNC, Dirty Cops and others! INVESTIGATE THE INVESTIGATORS!”

The AP story then declares that press secretary Sarah Sanders “repeatedly tried to make the same case on TV talk shows on Sunday” but that “the political battle is far from finished over the special counsel’s investigation of Russian efforts to help Trump in 2016 and whether there was cooperation with his campaign.”

Later, it tries to tie up the matter of what Trump got wrong. “In his letter, [U.S. Attorney General William] Barr said the special counsel did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign. However, contrary to Trump’s false claim, Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.”

President Trump’s tweet, of course, includes mention of the “A.G.” and his “great intelligence,” and the attorney general and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed Trump should be cleared of obstruction of justice charges as well. There is no inaccuracy in what President Trump said; there is the matter of leaving out the clause where the attorney general said not only did the president or his staff not collude with the Russians, but they turned down several opportunities to do so.

In Bloomberg’s piece – “Trump’s Reckoning With Mueller Nears With Report Set for Release” – author Shannon Pettypiece held out hope the full report will hurt Trump politically in ways the summary could not.

“Trump has already claimed ‘total exoneration’ based on a four-page summary issued last month by William Barr, in which the attorney general said Mueller didn’t find that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia,” she wrote.

“The narrative Barr established may yet be turned on its head when a far more detailed version of the report is given to Congress and made public and every page and paragraph is picked apart.

Then, she writes that “One of the big questions Mueller may answer in his report is why he declined to make a decision on whether to find that the president obstructed justice.” This is untrue. Barr reviewed the evidence along with Rosenstein and did make a decision not to prosecute.

Pettypiece made sure to point out that Barr “has said he is planning to withhold certain parts of it.” He is withholding only what is required by law – grand jury information, parts that identified people investigated but found blameless and information that compromises national security.

PBS also held out hope in “White House steps up attacks as Mueller report release nears,” leading with: “President Donald Trump took a victory lap after special counsel Robert Mueller concluded his Russia investigation. It may have been premature” and later reported that “some Trump allies are concerned that the president was too quick to declare complete triumph and they’re pushing the White House to launch a pre-emptive attack.”

It later states “With the goal to discredit what’s coming, Trump and his allies have unleashed a series of broadsides against Mueller’s team and the Democrats pushing for full release of the final report.”

It has no evidence anything in the report needs to be discredited.

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