May 4, 2019 11:13 am

Fact checking Donald Trump’s claims from the past week

WATCH ABOVE: Trump says he discussed nuclear deal with Russia which may include China

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The “no-collusion” chorus sang loudly this past week, with President Donald Trump in full-throated roar and even Russian President Vladimir Putin chiming in.

The upshot: substantial misrepresentations of what the special counsel’s Russia investigation actually found.

A review of recent rhetoric from Trump and his associates on Russia and more, with Putin in the mix:

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READ MORE: Trump, Putin discuss possible nuclear deal, Mueller report in hour-long call

Russia Investigation

PUTIN on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation: “A mountain gave birth to a mouse.” — remarks Tuesday, echoed in a phone call with Trump on Friday.

THE FACTS: Some might say this is a mouse that roared.

READ MORE: Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: An extensive timeline

The investigation produced charges against nearly three dozen people, among them senior Trump campaign operatives and 25 Russians, as it shed light on a brazen Russian assault on the American political system.

The investigation did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and it reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. Yet it described his campaign as eager to exploit the release of hacked Democratic emails to hurt rival Hillary Clinton and it exposed lies by Trump aides aimed at covering up their Russia-related contacts.

WATCH: Mueller report reveals Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice

The Russians caught up in the investigation were charged either with hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.

TRUMP: “The Mueller Report strongly stated that there was No Collusion with Russia (of course) and, in fact, they were rebuffed … at every turn in attempts to gain access.” — tweets Thursday.

READ MORE: Now that Mueller’s Russia investigation is over — what happens next?

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: “The evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous. … Two years of his administration have been dominated by allegations that have now been proven false.” — Senate hearing Wednesday.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Mr. Mueller and his team concluded there was no collusion.” — Senate hearing.

THE FACTS: This refrain about the Mueller report stating there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is wrong.

WATCH: White House staff out in full force after Trump’s ‘complete and total exoneration’

Trump’s assertion that his campaign denied all access to Russians is false. The Mueller report and other scrutiny revealed a multitude of meetings with Russians. Among them: Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer who had promised dirt on Clinton.

On collusion, Mueller said he did not assess whether that occurred because it is not a legal term.

READ MORE: Mueller report: Key players indicted in the Russia probe

He looked into a potential criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign and said the investigation did not collect sufficient evidence to establish criminal charges on that front.

Mueller noted some Trump campaign officials had declined to testify under the 5th Amendment or had provided false or incomplete testimony, making it difficult to get a complete picture of what happened during the 2016 campaign. The special counsel wrote that he “cannot rule out the possibility” that unavailable information could have cast a different light on the investigation’s findings.

WATCH: Democrats want to hear directly from Robert Mueller

BARR, speaking of Trump: “He fully cooperated.” — Senate hearing.

THE FACTS: It’s highly questionable to say Trump was fully cooperative in the Russia investigation.

Trump declined to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, gave written answers that investigators described as “inadequate” and “incomplete,” said more than 30 times that he could not remember something he was asked about in writing, and — according to the report — tried to get aides to fire Mueller or otherwise shut or limit the inquiry.

READ MORE: Mueller report finds no collusion with Russia but ‘does not exonerate’ Trump

In the end, the Mueller report found no criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but left open the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

GRAHAM: “As to obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide after two years, and all this time. He said, ‘Mr. Barr, you decide.’ Mr. Barr did.” — Senate hearing.

THE FACTS: Not true. Mueller did not ask Barr to rule on whether Trump’s efforts to undermine the special counsel’s Russia investigation had obstructed justice.

WATCH: House Dems accuse Trump administration of thwarting laws over AG Barr no-show

According to the report, Mueller’s team declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on whether to charge partly because of a Justice Department legal opinion that said sitting presidents shouldn’t be indicted.

As a result, the report factually laid out instances in which Trump might have obstructed justice, specifically leaving it open for Congress to take up the matter or for prosecutors to do so once Trump leaves office.

READ MORE: Mueller’s redacted report says Trump didn’t commit crime — stops short of exonerating him

Barr wrote in a March 24 letter that he ultimately decided, as attorney general, that the evidence developed by Mueller was “not sufficient” to establish, for the purposes of prosecution, that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

Barr subsequently acknowledged that he had not talked directly to Mueller about making that ruling and did not know whether Mueller agreed with him.

Venezuela

TRUMP says Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.” — remarks to reporters Friday after speaking with Putin on the phone.

THE FACTS: Putin is already deeply involved in Venezuela as U.S.-supported Juan Guaido, opposition leader of the National Assembly, challenges President Nicolas Maduro’s embattled government.

READ MORE: Military truck runs over protesters in Venezuela; Trump threatens Cuban embargo if its troops don’t quit

Russia has a political, military and economic alliance with Venezuela over many years and is helping to support Maduro’s hold on power.

The Russians have provided Venezuela with substantial assistance, including an air defense system and help circumventing U.S. sanctions on its oil industry.

WATCH: Trump says Russia doesn’t want involvement in Venezuela

“Russia is now so deeply invested in the Maduro regime that the only realistic option is to double down,” said Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

NATO

TRUMP: “We’re getting ripped off on military, NATO. I’m all for NATO. But you know, we’re paying for almost 100 percent of defending Europe.” — Wisconsin rally on April 27.

THE FACTS: The U.S. is not paying “almost 100 percent” the cost of defending Europe.

NATO does have a shared budget to which each member makes contributions based on the size of its economy. The United States, with the biggest economy, pays the biggest share, about 22 percent.

READ MORE: NATO downplays divisions despite Trump, Russia tensions

Four European members — Germany, France, Britain and Italy — combined pay nearly 44 percent of the total. The money, about $3 billion, runs NATO’s headquarters and covers certain other civilian and military costs.

Defending Europe involves far more than that fund. The primary cost of doing so would come from each member country’s military budget, as the alliance operates under a mutual defense treaty.

WATCH: Trump says he intends to designate Brazil as major non-NATO ally

The U.S. is the largest military spender but others in the alliance obviously have armed forces, too. The notion that almost all costs would fall to the U.S. is false.

In fact, NATO’s Article 5, calling for allies to act if one is attacked, has only been invoked once, and it was on behalf of the U.S., after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Economy

TRUMP: “We just did 3.2 … 3.2 is a number that they haven’t hit in 14 years.” — interview Wednesday with Fox Business News.

THE FACTS: First-quarter growth of 3.2% in the gross domestic product is nowhere close to the best in 14 years, by any measure. It’s only the best since last year, surpassed in the second and third quarters with rates of 4.2% and 3.4% respectively.

Perhaps he meant to say it was the best first-quarter growth in 14 years. But that’s not right, either. It’s the best in four years.

The economy grew by 3.3% in the first quarter of 2015. So President Barack Obama has a better first-quarter record than Trump to date.

TRUMP: “Wages are rising fastest for the lowest-income Americans.” — Wisconsin rally on April 27.

THE FACTS: This is true, though he’s claiming credit for a trend that predates his presidency.

WATCH: Trump rants on asylum loopholes, the physical wall building process, and the economy

Some of the gains also reflect higher minimum wages passed at the state and local level; the Trump administration opposes an increase to the federal minimum wage.

With the unemployment rate at 3.6 %, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs. Despite all the talk of robots and automation, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, and retail stores still need workers.

They are offering higher wages and have pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In March, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier, compared with 3% for the richest one quarter.

-Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Eric Tucker, Lolita C. Baldor and Lynn Berry contributed to this report.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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