PolitiFact: Trump misquotes Feinstein on Russia probes


In President Trump’s recent interview in The New York Times, he made that eye-opening claim about Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, two of the three congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

So, a statement from Feinstein declaring “no collusion,” would be significant.

Was there some truth to Trump’s words?

A White House spokesman did not respond to our request for evidence backing up Trump’s claim.

The president, however, was apparently referring to Feinstein’s Nov. 5, 2017 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper in which she discussed the Russia investigation but never flatly said there’s no collusion. As NPR reported in a similar fact check, Feinstein’s interview took place “following the guilty plea of former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. Charging documents described conversations Papadopoulos had with Russian-linked individuals where he was promised ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, as well as hacked emails.”

In the CNN interview, Tapper asked Feinstein whether she had “seen any evidence that this dirt, these emails, were ever given to the Trump campaign.” Feinstein replied: “Not so far.”

Tapper then asked: “Have you seen any communications that suggested that the Trump campaign wanted them to release them through a different means?”

Feinstein answered: “I have not.”

The senator’s words were in response to a specific portion of the Russia investigation. They are not the same as saying “there is no collusion.”

Feinstein spoke more generally about collusion during an Oct. 8, 2017 CBS interview, saying she did not know whether it had taken place.

“It’s an open question because there’s no proof yet that it’s happened, and I think that proof will likely come with Mr. Mueller’s investigation,” Feinstein said referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In this case, again, Feinstein did not say there is no collusion.

Tom Mentzer, Feinstein’s spokesman, said he was not aware of the senator ever making such a statement.

Feinstein is running for re-election in 2018 and is being challenged by State Senate Leader Kevin de León, also a Democrat.

In May 2017, Trump made a similar mischaracterization. He tweeted that former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “and virtually everyone else” said “there is no collusion” in the Russia investigation.

PolitiFact National found Trump twisted Clapper’s words from a March 2017 interview in which Clapper said he had no knowledge of improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In response to Trump’s tweet, Clapper later said: “I don’t know if there was collusion or not,” and that he did not believe the probe is “a witch hunt.” PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim Mostly False.

Our ruling

President Trump apparently based his statement on responses Feinstein gave in a November 2017 CNN interview about the Russia probe. While Feinstein said she had “not so far” seen specific evidence about one portion of the investigation, that’s far from declaring there was no collusion. Speaking more broadly about whether collusion took place, Feinstein said in an October 2017 interview that it’s “an open question.” The president’s claim distorted the senator’s words and gave the wrong impression.

We rate Trump’s claim False.


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