Trump was in rare form in his interview with Sean Hannity, spouting accusations based upon his claimed exoneration in the Mueller probe. He alleged the whole thing was an attempted “illegal takeover” of the government, tossed around the word “treason,” and lodged a number of baseless claims about Hillary Clinton and other topics.
It was a remarkable performance from a man who is attacking his opponents for their allegedly overzealous speculation about wrongdoing.
Let’s run through some of his conspiratorial claims.
“We can never allow this treasonous — these treasonous acts to happen to another president. This was an attempted takeover of our government, of our country — an illegal takeover."
Whatever you think about the origins of the Russia investigation, the idea that it was intended not to find the truth but to remove Trump from office is a very big allegation. It would probably be the biggest political scandal in U.S. history. This is about the furthest Trump has gone with his “deep state” conspiracy theorizing.
“When you look at what happened, and when it happened, and the money that was spent, the millions and millions on the phony dossier, and then they used the dossier to start things, and there was no truth whatsoever.”
The Steele dossier was not “used ... to start things.” The investigation began as early as the summer of 2016 based upon George Papadopoulos’s conversations with a foreign diplomat in which he discussed allegedly incriminating information Russia had about Clinton. The Steele dossier didn’t come into play until October 2016.
“Well, when I said there could be somebody spying on my campaign, a lot of things happened. It was like — it went wild out there. They couldn’t believe that I could say such a thing. And as it turned out, that was a small potatoes compared to what went on.”
Trump’s claim about spying involved President Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower, a claim for which there is no basis to this day. What’s more, the actual “spying” — if you can even call it that — began in October 2016, when the first FISA warrant was issued to surveil Carter Page. By that time, though, he was no longer on Trump’s campaign. So there is still no actual “spying on my campaign,” much less something amounting to bigger potatoes.
“You’re only allowed to do this legally if there is a crime. There was no crime. They’ve all admitted it. ... They’ve admitted in testimony that there was no crime. So they’d started an investigation based on no crime.”
Investigations are launched all the time without proof of crimes — necessarily so. If you already know there’s a crime, you don’t need an investigation. The idea that the investigation was clearly a hoax because it didn’t prove coordination with Russia doesn’t mean it had no basis. What’s more, the investigation did find crimes, lots of them.
“The ‘insurance policy’ — just in case Hillary Clinton lost, they wanted an insurance policy against me. And what we were playing out until just recently was the insurance policy. They wanted to do a subversion. It was treason. It was really treason.”
Both of the former FBI officials involved in the text-message exchange — Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — have testified under oath about this. Both said that the “insurance policy” meant not that the investigation was meant to take down Trump, but instead that they viewed it as a less-pressing investigation since they viewed Trump as unlikely to be investigated. They said it meant that the investigation needed to be in place just in case Trump won, so they wouldn’t be behind the eight ball on a suddenly pressing matter of national security. That’s an entirely plausible explanation.
“They deleted 33,000 emails, and they were BleachBit. That’s a big deal, a very expensive process. And almost nobody does it because it’s so expensive.”
As Philip Bump has explained, BleachBit is actually free, open-source software. Trump’s implication is that the prohibitive cost suggests the deletion was more nefarious, but that’s just not the case.
On the Lester Holt/NBC interview in which Trump said Russia was on his mind when he fired James B. Comey: “But despite that, that was an incorrect statement. When you say what I said, there was nothing said wrong there. But they did not play the whole interview. When they play the whole thing, you see exactly. ... But NBC didn’t want to play it that way. They wanted to play it a different way."
Trump has argued before that the tape of his interview with Holt was “fudged,” but there’s no real basis for the claim. The full interview was released almost immediately. What’s more, Trump’s legal team has argued that Trump’s comments have been mischaracterized and that a later quote from the interview suggests he didn’t intend to obstruct justice by firing Comey. But even they didn’t allege NBC doctored the video.
“But when you mention General Flynn, he was a man who had an incredible record in the military, you see what happened to him. The FBI said he wasn’t lying, as I understand it, and if the Mueller group said he was lying, and you know what he has gone through, and what so many others have gone through.”
Comey said in a briefing with lawmakers that Michael Flynn’s FBI interviewers had “discerned no physical indications of deception” and saw “nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.” But as he later explained, that was an evaluation of his physical appearance and not the content of his answers. The FBI never determined that Flynn hadn’t in fact lied. And in fact, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying and affirmed at this sentencing hearing that he knowingly lied.
On Mueller’s team: “But these were people that contributed, most of them, contributed to [Clinton’s] campaign.”
Mueller’s team did contribute more to Democrats than to Republicans. But as The Post’s Matt Zapotosky documented in March 2018, only five of 17 donated to Clinton’s 2016 campaign. One more had donated to her 2008 campaign.
“I will also say, you start taking a look at what happened on the tarmac. A lot of people say a lot of bad things happen on the tarmac between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton. I had a lot of planes for a long time. I’ve never stopped the plane on the tarmac to let somebody on the plane. And then they went and they talked about golf and their grandchildren for 40 minutes. It doesn’t work that way. What did they talk about? And then she was exonerated."
The conspiracy theory here is that Clinton and then-Attorney General Lynch met on an Arizona tarmac in a private meeting in which they discussed Hillary Clinton’s email investigation. While the meeting certainly involved questionable judgment on both ends, there is no evidence it had any effect on the investigation. Both Bill Clinton and Lynch say they didn’t discuss any investigations, according to an inspector general’s report. What’s more, they spoke for about 20 or 30 minutes, not 40.