WASHINGTON — Donald Trump heard words from a judge that the judge didn’t speak, as the president reached to denounce the Russia investigation as a hoax and celebrate an exoneration he wasn’t given. Democrats persisted in assailing the Trump administration for putting migrant children in the same type of holding facilities used when Barack Obama was president.
A look at some of the political rhetoric over the past week:
TRUMP: “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.” — tweet Friday about the case of his former campaign chairman.
THE FACTS: This did not happen, loudly, quietly or at all.
The case in Virginia was not related to Manafort’s work on the Trump campaign and did not take up the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Manafort was convicted for tax and bank fraud related to his own work advising Ukrainian politicians.
Judge T.S. Ellis III neither cleared nor implicated the president. Ellis emphasized that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government.”
TRUMP: Manafort’s lawyer “went out of his way to make a statement last night, no collusion with Russia. There was absolutely none. The judge, I mean for whatever reason, I was very honored by it, also made the statement that this had nothing to do with collusion with Russia. So you know, keep it going. Keep the hoax going.” — remarks to reporters before visiting Alabama on Friday.
THE FACTS: Trump is misquoting Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, who did not say there was no collusion with Russia. Downing only argued that no evidence emerged in the trial that his client, in particular, was involved in any collusion. The judge did say the trial was not about Russia but that was not a statement of vindication for Trump or anyone. It was a reflection of the nature of the unrelated charges against Manafort.
Whether the campaign and Russia worked together to tilt the election toward Trump is a core issue in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which continues.
Like other Americans close to the president who have been charged in the Mueller probe, Manafort hasn’t been accused of involvement in Russian election interference. But he has not been cleared of that suspicion, either.
For example, court papers in recent weeks revealed that Manafort shared polling data related to the campaign with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate U.S. authorities say is tied to Russian intelligence. A Mueller prosecutor has said that an August 2016 meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik goes to the “heart” of the Russia probe.
TRUMP, on turning over documents requested by congressional committees: “President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a very similar kind of a thing — didn’t give one letter. They didn’t do anything. They didn’t give one letter of the request. Many requests were made; they didn’t give a letter.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: Not true. The Obama administration gave Congress hundreds of thousands of pages of documents requested in oversight investigations.
The Obama White House turned over tens of thousands of documents to the Republican-led investigation of the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, for example, and the State Department released hundreds of Hillary Clinton’s emails from that time, when she was secretary of state. The Obama administration also gave Congress volumes on the collapse of the solar energy firm Solyndra. It resisted turning over documents on the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun-trafficking probe until a court forced it to release them to Congress.
“It is a false and ridiculous claim that we didn’t respond to oversight requests from Congress during the Obama administration,” Andy Wright, who helped manage those requests in the Obama White House, told The Associated Press.
Trump was responding to a House Judiciary Committee effort to get documents from 81 federal agencies, people and organizations as part of an investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.
CHILDREN IN CAGES
REP. KATHLEEN RICE, Democrat of New York: “It was a policy announced by the attorney general of this country that families were going to be separated. That was a policy. He did not say we’re going to start enforcing a law. It was a policy by this administration that only ended when there were pictures of little kids in cages that had been ripped away from their parents.” — House hearing Wednesday.
REP. MARK GREEN, Republican of Tennessee: “In regard to the child separation, and then we talked about the cages here, as I recall, the images that circulated around the internet were actually from the Obama administration. They later found out that the picture that circulated the internet of a child in a cage came from the time frame when it was the Obama administration.” — House hearing Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Green is correct. Some Democrats continue to evoke images of children in “cages” that spread online at the height of the family-separation controversy and sparked rage over supposed Trump administration cruelty. But the pictures in question were taken by the AP in 2014 and depicted Obama administration detentions of children. They were widely misrepresented as illustrating Trump-era detention.
The Border Patrol temporarily houses children who are apart from families in the same facilities used by the Obama administration. They are chain-link enclosures inside buildings, which Democrats call cages.
The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general testified to Congress this past week on conditions for detainees. John Kelly, the inspector general, faulted the department for keeping children for longer periods in facilities meant for short-term detention. But he said the facilities his office inspected were in compliance with standards. “The children had access to hygiene items and clean bedding,” he said. “We did not encounter issues with temperature or ventilation, access to emergency medical care, supervision or access to phones.” He said “children had access to food and snacks and did not complain of hunger.”
In stark contrast, he reported unhealthy and unsafe conditions in four or five Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities used for adults.
Immigration officials are allowed to take a child from a parent in certain cases — serious criminal charges against a parent, concerns over the health and welfare of a child or medical concerns. That policy has long been in place and is separate from the now-suspended zero-tolerance Trump administration policy that saw children separated from parents only because they had crossed illegally.
TRUMP: “No administration has accomplished — probably, you could say this with absolute surety — in the first two years anywhere near what we have accomplished. Whether it’s the tax cuts; whether it’s regulation cuts; whether it’s the Veterans Administration — what we’ve done with the Veterans Administration with Choice and so many other things that nobody thought would be possible to get passed.” — remarks Tuesday.
TRUMP: “We’re extremely proud of Choice. It’s been many, many decades that they’ve been trying to get Choice where a veteran can go out and see a doctor if the lines are long.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: You wouldn’t know from Trump’s boasting that it was Obama who won passage of the Choice program. Trump is expanding the program. Its ultimate scope remains uncertain, in part because of questions of money.
TRUMP: “Supporting veterans in distress is a critical priority for our entire administration — everybody in the administration. … Every VA medical center now offers same-day emergency mental health care.” — remarks Tuesday.
THE FACTS: This may be the case, but again it happened before Trump took office. VA’s effort to provide same-day primary and mental-health care when medically necessary at every VA medical center was publicized in April 2016, during the Obama administration. By late 2016, the department’s blog announced that goal would be achieved by year’s end.
A Dec. 23, 2016, article in the Harvard Business Review cites new same-day services at all VA hospitals as evidence of notable progress at the department. Former VA secretary David Shulkin told Congress in late January 2017 the services already were fully in place.