Despite his pledge that he would “never knowingly say something that is not factual” to the media as White House press secretary, Sean Spicer is using his position behind the lectern to tell lies to the press.
UPDATE: The New York Times reported on July 21 that Spicer "resigned" as White House press secretary because "he vehemently disagreed with the appointment of the New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director."
Spicer Pledges To “Never Knowingly Say Something That Is Not Factual” As White House Press Secretary. During the January 23 White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer pledged that his “intention is never to lie” to the press, adding, “I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them. And if we make a mistake, we’ll do our best to correct it.” From the January 23 White House press briefing:
JON KARL: Before I get to a policy question, just a question about the nature of your job.
SEAN SPICER: Yeah.
KARL: Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium? And will you pledge to never to knowingly say something that is not factual?
SPICER: It is. It’s an honor to do this. And yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts.There are certain things that we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention is never to lie to you, Jonathan.
We’re going to do our best every time we can. I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them. And if we make a mistake, we’ll do our best to correct it. [White House press briefing, 1/23/17]
Spicer: “I Don’t Think There’s Any Question That It Was The Largest-Watched Inauguration Ever.” When asked if he stood by his claim that Trump’s inauguration “was the most-watched inaugural address,” Spicer doubled-down, claiming, “I don’t see any numbers that dispute that.” Spicer added, “I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest-watched inauguration ever.” From the January 23 White House press briefing:
JON KARL: Do you stand by your statement that was the most-watched inaugural address?
SEAN SPICER: Sure, it was the most-watched inaugural. When you look at just the one network alone got 16.9 million people online. Another couple of the networks, there were tens of millions that watched that online. Nevermind the audience that was here. Thirty-one million people watched it on television. Combine that with the tens of millions of people that watched it online on a device? It’s unquestionable. And I don’t see any numbers that dispute that. When you add up attendance, viewership, total audience in terms of tablets, phones, on television. I’d love to see any information that proves that otherwise.
If you add up the network streaming numbers, Facebook, YouTube, all of the various livestreaming that we have numbers on so far, I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest-watched inauguration ever. [White House press briefing, 1/23/17]
FACT: “There’s No Evidence” To Support Spicer’s Claim
Wash. Post: “There’s No Evidence” That Spicer’s Claim Is “True.” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump said of Spicer’s claim, “There’s no evidence that’s true.” Bump pointed out that Spicer ignored the “maximum number of concurrent viewers” online and that “CNN’s live-stream numbers for Obama[’s inauguration] were even bigger” than Trump’s. From the January 23 fact check (emphasis original):
After walking through various metrics that he suggested bolstered Trump’s point (though without reiterating the 1.5 million figure [that Trump had cited]), Spicer declared, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”
There’s no evidence that’s true.
During a news conference on Monday, Spicer clarified that his assertion extended beyond just the in-person audience.
Even including TV watchers, Trump trailed several prior presidents. He falls into fifth place since 1969, behind Obama in 2009, Richard Nixon in 1973, Jimmy Carter in 1977 and the high-water mark of Ronald Reagan in 1981.
On top of television, Spicer added online streaming numbers in his news conference on Monday. He cited CNN’s number of streams, which the network pegged at 16.9 million. Add that to Trump’s Nielsen numbers, Spicer suggested — 30.6 million — and you’re already past Reagan and everyone in the pre-Internet era.
That 16.9 million number, though, was streaming starts, meaning that someone popped into the stream and then left it. The maximum number of concurrent viewers — a more comparable number to Nielsen metrics — was 2.3 million at the time Trump took the oath. That would put Trump still 6 million views behind Obama in 2009 and far behind Reagan.
Spicer’s argument also ignores that, eight years ago, CNN’s live-stream numbers for Obama were even bigger. As the Associated Press reported at the time, CNN had 21.3 million streams (presumably starts) in partnership with Facebook that year. The AP had 8 million and the White House 1.3 million. (Update: A reader points out different numbers from CNN in 2009: 27 million total for the day — but 1.3 million concurrent, a million fewer than Trump.) [The Washington Post, 1/23/17]
Spicer: It’s A “Myth” That Trump Had A “Rift” With The Intelligence Community. Spicer alleged that Trump’s visit to the CIA on January 21 was meant to “dispel the myth that there was a quote-unquote ‘rift’ between the president and the intelligence community.” From the January 23 press briefing:
SEAN SPICER: [Trump] kept hearing about this rift that existed. He talked about it a couple weeks ago after his briefing, how proud he is and how much he respects the intelligence community. And I think when he walked into that, and he saw it, he wanted to make sure the people knew that what you’re hearing on television or in reports about this rift, I have the utmost respect for you, I honor your service, I’m proud of what you’re doing and the sacrifices that you’re making. And I think that he wanted them to know that you see and hear all this stuff on TV about this rift that so-called exists. And clearly it doesn’t matter. Like, don’t believe what you’re hearing. Know that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. I appreciate everything that you’re doing. And I think that’s why he wanted to do it, was to make sure that they understand, and they heard first-hand, how much he respects them, how much he wanted to dispel the myth that there was a quote-unquote “rift.” [White House Press Briefing, 1/23/17]
FACT: Trump Disparaged The Intelligence Community Several Times And Compared Intelligence Officials To Nazis
PolitiFact: There Are “Several Specific Instances” Where Trump “Publicly Disparaged The Intelligence Community.” PolitiFact laid out “several specific instances when” Trump “publicly disparaged the intelligence community.” In the fact check, PolitiFact pointed out that Trump “said that intelligence officials had used Nazi-like tactics against him and belittled the agencies as a whole for their incorrect belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction” and that he “also openly doubted their conclusions during the campaign that Russia was trying to interfere with the presidential election.” From the January 22 fact check:
We count several specific instances when he publicly disparaged the intelligence community.
Trump’s language took a sharper tone when CNN reported on Jan. 10, 2017, about a file claiming that the Russians had embarrassing personal and financial information on Trump. According to reports, the file had actually been compiled by people working for Trump’s American political opponents and leaked to the press. CNN reported that intelligence officials also received the file and had briefed both Trump and President Barack Obama about its existence.
On Jan. 11, Trump tweeted "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"
Trump didn’t back down when he was asked about the Nazi comparison at a press conference later that day.
"I think it was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out," he said. "I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that — and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do."
Trump also tweeted his suspicions that intelligence officials were behind the leaked file.
"Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans - FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by ‘Intelligence’ even knowing there is no proof, and never will be."
Throughout the campaign, Trump consistently expressed doubt that Russia had meddled in the election at all. Allegations that Russia had stolen emails off the Democratic National Committee server were circulating by September.
National security historian Stephen Walt at Harvard University’s Kennedy School told us no other modern president has attacked the intelligence community in the way Trump has.
"Trump went well beyond the norm in this charge and now pretends he didn’t pick a fight with them, even though his remarks are a matter of public record," Walt said.
While he did call himself a "big fan" and respected the service of the members of the intelligence community, he also lashed out on several occasions. He said that intelligence officials had used Nazi-like tactics against him and belittled the agencies as a whole for their incorrect belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Trump also openly doubted their conclusions during the campaign that Russia was trying to interfere with the presidential election. [PolitiFact, 1/22/17]
Spicer Claimed A Pew Study “Showed 14 Percent Of People Who Voted Were Non-Citizens.” When asked about Trump’s persistent claim that “millions voted illegally” in the 2016 election, Spicer claimed that Trump “does believe that.” Spicer cited a study “that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who had voted were non-citizens.” From the January 24 press briefing:
CECILIA VEGA: Does the president believe that millions voted illegally in this election and what evidence do you have of widespread voter fraud in this election, if that’s the case?
SEAN SPICER: The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he’s stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.
VEGA: But exactly what evidence? Speaker Ryan today said there’s no evidence, the National Association of Secretaries of State say that they don’t agree with the president’s assessment.What evidence do you have?
SPICER: I think there’s been studies. There’s been one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who had voted were non-citizens. There’s other studies that have been presented to him. It’s a belief he maintains. [White House press briefing, 1/24/17, 1/24/17]
FACT: There’s No Evidence That Millions Voted Illegally
Author Of The Pew Study Spicer Mentioned: “That Report Made No Findings” Concerning Voter Fraud.
NY Times: Officials Found “Next To None” When Searching For Voter Fraud Cases. A New York Times report stated that “the overwhelming consensus” among election officials who “have been adding up how many credible reports of fraud they actually received” is that there were “next to none.” From the December 18 New York Times report:
After all the allegations of rampant voter fraud and claims that millions had voted illegally, the people who supervised the general election last month in states around the nation have been adding up how many credible reports of fraud they actually received. The overwhelming consensus: next to none.
In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation. [The New York Times, 12/18/16]
Spicer: Trump Is “Very, Very Pleased” With His Overwhelming Electoral College Victory. Spicer claimed during a January 24 press briefing that Trump “won overwhelmingly with 306 electoral votes, the most since any Republican since Reagan.” Spicer added that Trump is “very comfortable with the depth and breadth of the support that he got from the American people:”
SEAN SPICER: He won overwhelmingly with 306 electoral votes, the most since any Republican since Reagan. He's very comfortable with the depth and breadth of the support that he got from the American people and the 33 states that voted for him, the nine of 13 battleground states, the 2,600 counties. He's very, very pleased with that. [White House press briefing, CNBC, 1/24/17]
FACT: GOP President George H.W. Bush Won More Electoral Votes, And Trump’s Electoral College Victory Ranks In Bottom Third In History
H.W. Bush Received 426 Electoral Votes In 1988. Despite Spicer’s claim that Trump won more electoral votes than any Republican candidate since Reagan, “Trump's victory wasn't the largest GOP win since Reagan — George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes in 1988,” notes NPR:
THE FACTS: While Trump should have gotten 306 electoral votes according to the state by state results, he in fact will only end up with 304 because two electors in Texas defected when Electoral College voters cast their ballots; Clinton had several defectors, too. And Trump's victory wasn't the largest GOP win since Reagan — George H.W. Bush won 426 electoral votes in 1988. [NPR, 1/29/17]
NY Times: “Trump’s Electoral College Victory Ranks 46th In 58 Elections.” According to a New York Times analysis, “[t]here have been 45 presidential elections [out of 58 total] in which the winning candidate won a larger share of the electoral vote” than Trump did:
President-elect Donald J. Trump has claimed he won the electoral vote in a “landslide,” but he ranks below most presidents in the electoral vote and popular vote margins.
Mr. Trump won 30 states, gathering 306 of 538 electoral votes. There have been 45 presidential elections in which the winning candidate won a larger share of the electoral vote. [The New York Times, 12/18/16]
LIE 5: Spicer Claimed 2001 And 2017 National Security Council Principals Committee Makeups Are "100 Percent The Same"
Spicer Claims That Nothing Has Been Changed In Principals Committee List From Previous Administrations. In an effort to defend Stephen Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council Principals Committee, Spicer said that the "language" of the "makeup of the Principals Committee" from 2001 and 2017 are "literally 100 percent the same. 2001 and 2017 are identical." From the January 30 press conference:
SEAN SPICER: In terms of the Principals Committee, as you can see from the various -- language here, and this is, I'll give you 2017 on Principals Committee. This is the Principals Committee in 2017, and this is the 2001 Principals Committee. It is literally 100 percent the same. 2001 and 2017 are identical. So this idea that there's been a change or a downgrade is utter nonsense. [White House press briefing, MSNBC, 1/30/17]
FACT: The 2001 Principals Committee List Did Not Include "A Chief Strategist," Bannon's Current Role
NPR: Having Bannon On The NSC Principals Committee “Is A Departure From Any Past Administration.” An NPR fact check said that Spicer’s claim that “the makeup of the Principals Committee” in 2001 and 2017 were “100 percent identical” was “not true,” writing that Bannon’s appointment to the Principals Committee of the NSC “is a departure from any past administration.” From the January 30 fact check:
Holding up papers with highlighted text, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said little has changed as it relates to the National Security Council between the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations.
He thundered of "identical language" between (parts of the) 2017 and 2009 memos organizing the NSC. And he went further when it came to George W. Bush's administration.
"The makeup of the Principals Committee from 2017 is exactly as it was in both 2017 as it was in 2001," Spicer boasted, brandishing the texts in both hands. "100 percent identical, except we add the word also."
But that's not true.
Compared with George W. Bush's, Trump's has far more people in the Principals Committee. The director of national intelligence and the Homeland Security Department did not exist yet. And, of course, there was no "chief strategist" designated on the Principals Committee[.]
Bush's initial organizational order forming the NSC (above) designates that the CIA director and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would attend on an as-needed basis. But that was before Sept. 11.
"In effect, after 9/11 the practice was they were in almost every meeting," David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP group, which publishes Foreign Policy magazine, told NPR's Scott Horsley. "The structure changed again in the Obama administration. And the big difference between this NSC and past NSCs [is] not really with regard to that particular issue."
The bigger issue is Bannon. Having the president's chief strategist designated to be on the Principals Committee is a departure from any past administration. [NPR, 1/30/17]
Spicer: “My Understanding” Is That CNN “Retracted” Their Concerns About Conway’s Credibility. During the February 7 press briefing, Business Insider’s Hunter Walker asked Spicer about CNN “reportedly declin[ing] to interview Kellyanne Conway… because of questions about her credibility.” Spicer claimed that it was his “understanding is [CNN] retracted that, they walked that back, or denied it”:
HUNTER WALKER: CNN reportedly declined to interview Kellyanne Conway on Sunday because of questions about her credibility. Is the White House willing to offer alternative representatives to networks that refuse to work with specific spokespeople?
SEAN SPICER: Well, frankly, I think that -- my understanding is they retracted that, they’ve walked that back or denied it, however you want to put it, I don’t care. But I think Kellyanne is a very trusted aide of the president. I think for any characterization otherwise is insulting. I don’t think, if they choose not to work with someone, that's up to them, but I think we're going to continue to put out key leaders of this administration including Kellyanne that can articulate the president's policies and agenda. [White House Press Briefing, 2/7/17]
Fact: The CNN Communications Team Confirmed Via Twitter They Never Retracted Their Comments About Conway’s Credibility
CNN Communications: “CNN Was Clear, On The Record, About Our Concerns About Kellyanne Conway’s Credibility … We Have Not ‘Retracted’ Nor ‘Walked Back’ Those Comments.”
Spicer: “When President Obama Criticized The Supreme Court For Its Citizens United” Ruling, “There Was No Concern From This Briefing Room.” During the February 9 press briefing, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan asked Spicer about President Trump’s “attacks on the judiciary,” given Judge Neil Gorsuch’s “confirmed remarks” that Trump’s attacks on judges were “disheartening and demoralizing.” Spicer claimed that “when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United comments in the State of the Union, there wasn't a similar concern about that." Spicer doubled down by stating "When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room," and suggesting that there is “clearly a double standard” in the media’s criticism of Trump’s comments:
MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean you just said [President Trump] doesn’t regret his past attacks on the judiciary, but now you have these confirmed remarks [from Judge Neil Gorsuch], which you were saying were exactly what the judge was talking about. And that’s not changing the president’s --
SEAN SPICER: No, no. But -- hold on. But, again, I think it's important to understand, the judge was very clear that he was not commenting on any specific matter. Right? And then he was asked about his general philosophy. So you can't then take that, equate it back to the specific. He literally went out of his way to say, “I'm not commenting on a specific instance.” So to take what he said about a generalization and apply it to a specific is exactly what he was intending not to do.
BRENNAN: But in order words, the president will continue to speak like this?
SPICER: Of course he will. The president’s going to speak his mind. It goes back to Thomas Jefferson that presidents have commented on judicial nominees. I mean the idea of one branch talking about or commenting on another branch is as old as our republic. So, I don't know why -- and I find it interesting when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United comments in the State of the Union, there wasn't a similar concern about that.
I get it, I mean, look, but at some point it seems like there's clearly a double standard when it’s how this is applied. When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room. When he does it, it's a ton of outrage. So, I just, with all due respect, I think the president’s made very clear that he was concerned about how that executive order in particular, which is what we’re talking about, was applied. [White House Press Briefing, 2/9/17]
Fact: "Trump's Rebuke Was Far More Intense Than Obama's," Which Was Brought Up "At The First White House Press Briefing After The State Of The Union."
Wash. Post: Spicer “Falsely Accused Journalists Of Holding President Trump To A Different Standard Than They Applied To Former President Barack Obama, When It Comes To Criticizing The Judiciary.” The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers debunked Spicer’s claim of a “double standard” in the media’s coverage of Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, noting that not only was “Trump’s rebuke” of the judiciary “far more intense than Obama’s,” but that Obama’s comments about the Citizens United ruling in his 2010 State of the Union address were “dissected at length on cable news,” "covered on the front page," and were brought up "at the first White House press briefing after the State of the Union." According to Borchers, "Once again, Spicer stood before a roomful of journalists and made an assertion that is totally at odds with the facts." From the February 9 article:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer in his daily media briefing on Thursday falsely accused journalists of holding President Trump to a different standard than they applied to former president Barack Obama, when it comes to criticizing the judiciary.
Trump's rebuke was far more intense than Obama's.
Obama, a lawyer, merely labeled the Supreme Court's decision “wrong” and called on Congress to pass a bill that would reverse it. Trump cast aspersions on Robart's qualifications by referring to him as a “so-called judge” and blamed him for a hypothetical, future terrorist attack.
It is one thing for a president to disagree with a ruling, on the merits; it is another to suggest that a “so-called” judge could have blood on his hands.
Still, Obama's critique of the Citizens United decision was a big deal — especially because Justice Samuel Alito could be seen on camera shaking his head as Obama spoke. The episode was dissected at length on cable news[.]
And at the first White House press briefing after the State of the Union, it, of course, came up[.] [The Washington Post, 2/9/17]
Spicer: Trump’s Travel Ban Has Been A “Country-Focused Issue” “From The Beginning.” During the February 22 press briefing, Los Angeles Times reporter Noah Bierman asked why Trump “decided to back down” on his Muslim ban and instead make it a ban on immigration based on specific countries. Spicer falsely replied, “I think he’s made it very clear … from the beginning that this was a country-focused issue, a safety-focused issue, and that’s why he issued. I don't see anything other than that with reference to that.”
NOAH BIERMAN: When talking about fulfilling [Trump’s] promises, can you explain why he decided to back down from [making his travel ban about Muslim immigration]?
SEAN SPICER: I think he's made it very clear, Noah, from the beginning that this was a country-focused issue, a safety-focused issue, and that’s why he issued. I don't see anything other than that with reference to that. [White House press briefing, 2/22/17]
Fact: Trump Initially Proposed A Muslim Ban And Repeatedly Referenced Banning Muslims Throughout The Campaign
Trump’s Original Statement Calling For “A Total And Complete Shutdown Of Muslims Entering The United States” Is Still On His Website. On December 7, 2015, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on.” The statement, titled ”DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION,” is still on his website, DonaldJTrump.com. [DonaldJTrump.com, accessed 2/22/17]
Trump Repeatedly Said He Would Ban Muslims Throughout The Campaign. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly declared his intent to ban Muslims from entering the country, publicly discussing banning Muslims at least nine times with media figures. [Media Matters, 2/13/17]
Spicer: “When You Have 12, 14, 15 Million People In The Country Illegally … There Has To Be A System Of Priority.” Spicer gave various estimates throughout the February 21 press conference about the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. While explaining the DHS’ list of priorities for deportation, Spicer first claimed that there are “12, 14, 15 million people in the country illegally.” Later, he suggested there are “13 or 14 million” undocumented immigrants living in the country. The final estimate he offered during that briefing was “13, 14, 15, potentially more, millions of people” in the country illegally. From the February 21 press briefing:
SEAN SPICER: I think this is -- yeah. And this is what I was basically talking to Cecilia about, which is the president's made clear, when you have 12, 14, 15 million people in the country illegally, that there has to be a system of priority, and right now ICE's priority is going to make sure that we focus first and foremost on that.
SPICER: When you have 13 or 14 million people that are in the country -- I think it’s one thing to say prioritize people who pose a threat to public safety and go after this individual or that individual or whatever, that is -- there’s no question. You have to have priorities in anything. What do you first, what do you do second, what do you do third. And when you’re talking about 13, 14, 15, potentially more, millions of people in this country, the president needed to give guidance, especially after what they went through in the last administration where there were so many carve-outs that ICE agents and CBP members didn’t -- had to figure out each individual whether or not they fit in a particular category and they can adjudicate that case. [White House Press Briefing, 2/21/17; 2/21/17]
FACT: The Official Estimate Of Undocumented Immigrants In The US Is 11 Million
Wash. Post: “Research From DHS And Independent Research Groups Estimate The Unauthorized Population At Just Over 11 Million, Plus Or Minus 1 Million.” The Washington Post Fact Checker gave Spicer’s claim "three Pinocchios" -- the rating assigned to a statement with "significant factural error and/or obvious contradictions" -- noting that "the official U.S. government estimate" is 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. The Fact Checker wrote that "Spicer’s statement that there are about 12 million people in the country illegally is safely within the margin of error," but that "once he enters the realm of ‘13, 14, 15 million’ or ‘potentially more,’ his claim becomes problematic.” From the February 23 article:
Spicer’s statement that there are about 12 million people in the country illegally is safely within the margin of error in credible demographics research. But once he enters the realm of “13, 14, 15 million” or “potentially more,” his claim becomes problematic.
Research from DHS and independent research groups estimate the unauthorized population at just over 11 million, plus or minus 1 million. The number could be as high as 12 million. Even calculations by the Center for Immigration Studies, which the administration frequently relies on as its source for immigration data, said any estimate of 13 million or more is not credible, given the flows of unauthorized people.
Spicer’s claim does not rise to Four Pinocchios, but he would be on factually safer ground sticking to the 12 million figure, rather than some one-off reference made by a since-departed Obama administration official. Even better, since he is the chief spokesman at the White House, Spicer could cite the official U.S. government estimate of 11 million. [The Washington Post, 2/23/17]
Spicer: Fox’s James Rosen “Had His Phones -- Multiple Phones Tapped” During The Obama Administration. In response to a March 8 press briefing question about whether CIA cyber tools were ever used against the American people, Spicer replied claiming that Fox News correspondent James Rosen “had his phones -- multiple phones tapped” during the Obama administration. From the March 8 press briefing:
JOHN ROBERTS: Will you confirm that there's a criminal investigation into this alleged theft of cyber tools from the CIA by WikiLeaks? What can the White House tell us about the situation, particularly the fact that it seems like there's another leak from the intelligence community that’s on the scale of Edward Snowden? And can you assure the American people that none of these tools have ever been used against them?
SEAN SPICER: Well, there’s a couple of things in that. Number one, for obvious reasons, it is our policy as a government not to confirm the authenticity of any kind of disclosure or hack. That would be highly inappropriate for us. But all of these occurred under the last administration, that is important. All of these alleged issues. And I think it's interesting to have it asked this way about the damage that could have occurred or what tools could be used in light of what's been going on recently. We’ve had your own network’s correspondent James Rosen had his phones -- multiple phones tapped. Was that appropriate back then? I think there's a lot of concern out there about alleged leaks. [White House Press Briefing, 3/8/17]
FACT: Rosen’s Phones Were Not Wiretapped
CNN: Rosen Himself Debunked The Myth That His Phones Were Wiretapped. CNN reported that Rosen himself “shot down” the myth that his phones were wiretapped while appearing on “Fox & Friends on Sunday after the show’s hosts claimed his phones were tapped.” In reality, Rosen’s emails and phone records were subpoenaed by the Department of Justice after he “received classified information from a former State Department contractor.” From the March 8 article:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrongly claimed Wednesday that a Fox News reporter had his phones tapped while Barack Obama was president.
That claim, which has been propagating in conservative media for several days, was shot down by none other than Rosen himself during a recent appearance on Fox News.
"I was not wiretapped, my parents were not wiretapped, which is where you place a listening device on someone's telephone line and you listen to their conversations," Rosen told Fox & Friends on Sunday after the show's hosts claimed his phones were tapped.
Instead, Rosen explained, former Attorney General Eric Holder had secretly designated Rosen a criminal co-conspirator -- because he had received classified information from a former State Department contractor -- thereby giving the government permission to subpoena Rosen's emails and phone records, including those of his parents.
When asked to clarify the administration's stance, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNNMoney, "There are multiple reports on this matter." [CNN.com, 3/8/17]
Spicer Claimed “Under The Bush Administration, Most Of” The Detainees Released From Gitmo “Were Court Ordered.” During the March 8 White House press briefing, NBC News reporter Chris Jansing asked Spicer to clarify Trump’s false claims that Obama released 122 detainees from Guantanamo Bay. In response, Spicer contrasted the release of detainees under George W. Bush and Obama, saying, “Just to be clear, there is a big difference -- under the Bush administration, most of those were court ordered.” From the March 8 briefing:
CHRIS JANSING: Since you’re talking about whether things are true or not, let me ask you -- following up on something yesterday, you seemed to acknowledge that the President was wrong when he tweeted that 122 prisoners released by the Obama administration from Gitmo had returned to the battlefield. In fact, it was mostly by the Bush administration. Will he retract, or even apologize for that, given that he also called it a “terrible decision” by the Obama administration, and given that that was incorrect? That there still has been no proof either of his tweets about widespread voter fraud or the wiretapping? Does the President have a credibility problem?
SEAN SPICER: No, look, I said yesterday -- I think Trey asked the question -- that the President meant the total number of people.
JANSING: But he said the Obama administration.
SPICER: I understand that, I’m actually explaining it. That’s why you asked the question. He meant that the total number of people released from Gitmo was 122. What the President -- but just to be clear, there’s a big difference -- under the Bush administration, most of those were court ordered. The Obama administration took great steps -- they talked about -- it was a campaign promise, frankly, from day one to close Gitmo. This President is very clear that he understands the nature of the threat that the people in Gitmo pose to our nation, and the recidivism rate that there are among people that we have released. [The White House, 3/8/17]
FACT: Less Than A Dozen Of the 532 Detainees Released Under Bush Were Court-Ordered
FactCheck.org: “Less Than A Dozen” Detainees Who Were Transferred Or Released Under Bush “Were Court Ordered.” FactCheck.org corrected Spicer’s false claim, quoting a Bush-era National Security Council legal adviser who said, “Only a handful of Guantanamo detainees were released during the Bush Administration pursuant to court order.” From the March 9 fact check:
While correcting President Donald Trump’s tweet about Guantanamo Bay detainees who have returned to the battlefield, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly claimed that in contrast to the detainees transferred or released by the Obama administration, “under the Bush administration, most of those were court ordered.”
The Bush administration released or transferred 532 Gitmo detainees, and less than a dozen were court ordered.
Spicer’s false narrative came while correcting incorrect information tweeted out by President Trump on March 7.
John B. Bellinger III, a National Security Council legal adviser in Bush’s first term and a legal adviser to the State Department in Bush’s second term, said Spicer’s claim that under Bush most detainees were released due to a court order is simply incorrect.
“Only a handful of Guantanamo detainees were released during the Bush Administration pursuant to court order,” Bellinger told us in an email. [FactCheck.org, 3/9/27]
LIE 12: Spicer Claimed That The Reason The Secretary Of State’s Plane On His Trip To Asia Can’t Accommodate Reporters Is Because Of The Cost
Spicer: Secretary Tillerson’s Plane Can’t Accommodate Reporters Because “There’s An Element Of Cost-Savings At This Point That The Secretary Is Trying To Achieve.” CBS News’ Margaret Brennan asked Spicer during the March 10 press briefing if the White House “sign[ed] off” on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s plan to travel to Asia without the press. Spicer told Brennan that members of the press corps would be “traveling commercially” and that the reason the plane couldn’t accommodate reporters was because of “the size of the plane” and because “there’s an element of cost-savings at this point that the secretary is trying to achieve.” From the March 10 press briefing:
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did the White House sign off on Secretary [Rex] Tillerson’s decision not to take the press with him on what should be an important trip to Asia -- the growing North Korean threat -- And what are his marching orders? You talked a lot about the flexibility the president has given to his generals. What flexibility has he given for diplomatic initiatives to his secretary of state?
SEAN SPICER: As I mentioned at the beginning, the president was having lunch with Secretary Tillerson. I know that the trip was one of the topics of discussion, and so I will try to follow up with that. With respect to the first part of the question, press is being invited to that trip. They're traveling commercially. There is a press logistics component to make sure that they can get everywhere, that they’re given access to everything, there’s a press conference --
BRENNAN: You can't possibly go to all three of those cities commercially to cover him in the way that --
SPICER: The answer is the plane that the secretary is taking doesn’t accommodate that, but they have made accommodations for members of the press to cover everything. And I know that --
BRENNAN: Was this something he was advised to do?
SPICER: No, we don't get involved in the logistics for every cabinet member’s trip. I would advise you to touch base with the secretary, with the State Department on this. But I know that they have made aware of the concerns of some of your colleagues, and they are making accommodations in the future with respect to the size of the plane. But make no mistake about it, there is a logistics component to make sure that the press is welcome throughout the trip and at every stop and that accommodations are taken care of and there’s logistical support to do that. There will be a press conference component as well.
BRENNAN: You couldn’t get a bigger plane?
SPICER: It’s not a question -- there's an element of tax --
BRENNAN: Most secretaries of state can accommodate that.
SPICER: I understand that, and there’s an element of cost savings at this point that the secretary is trying to achieve. But the end to the day, there's been a press component to every stop of the secretary’s trip. He is doing everything he can to logistically support the press who wants to come and cover him and they are being open to make sure the secretary is available throughout the trip. [White House Press Briefing, 3/10/17]
FACT: News Outlets Reimburse The Government For The Cost Of Reporters’ Travel
CNN: When Traveling With A Government Official, “News Outlets Normally Pay For Their Reporters' Seats, Compensating The Government For The Expenses.” CNN’s Brian Stelter debunked Spicer’s claim that Tillerson is trying to achieve “cost-savings” by taking a smaller plane that doesn’t accommodate reporters, explaining that “news outlets normally pay for their reporters' seats, compensating the government for the expenses.” Similarly, Poynter previously disputed the argument that Tillerson's plane was too small to carry the press, noting that "there are many other planes that could fit his needs in the sprawling federal fleet," such as the Air Force 737. [Poynter.com, 3/7/17; CNN.com, 3/10/17]
Spicer: Paul Manafort “Played A Very Limited Role For A Very Limited Amount Of Time” During The Campaign. When asked if Trump is “aware of any contacts that his campaign associates had with Russia during the election,” Spicer attempted to brush aside the involvement of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, claiming Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time” during the campaign. From the March 20 press briefing:
JULIE PACE: Now that we know there is an ongoing investigation by the FBI, does the president stand by his comments that he’s not aware of any contacts that his campaign associates had with Russia during the election?
SEAN SPICER: Yes.
PACE: And then the second one is has anyone from the White House --
SPICER: Can I just amend the first one?
SPICER: Just to be clear. I know that -- I’m trying to think through this for a second because, obviously, General Flynn.
PACE: Right, during the campaign and before the election.
SPICER: And I'm not aware of any at this time. But even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign. And then obviously there’s been this discussion of Paul Manafort who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time. [White House Press Briefing, 3/20/17]
FACT: Paul Manafort Was The "'Chairman' Of Trump's Campaign For Several Months"
Wash. Post: It’s “Completely Nonsensical” To Say Manafort Played A Limited Role In The Campaign. The Washington Post characterized Spicer’s claim that Manafort “played a very limited role” in the Trump campaign as “laughable” and “completely nonsensical.” Manafort, according to The Washington Post, “was Trump’s de facto campaign manager” and “was guiding the campaign's strategy while the primaries were happening, and he was in charge of ensuring that Trump's delegate lead resulted in him being awarded the nomination at the Republican National Convention.” From the March 20 article:
To hear Sean Spicer tell it, Paul Manafort was a bit player in getting Donald Trump elected president. At a briefing Monday, the White House press secretary actually described Manafort as having “played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Except Paul Manafort was Trump's de facto campaign manager, his top aide. And he held the position of "chairman" of Trump's campaign for several months.
Trump hired Manafort in late March 2016 to lead his delegate effort with an eye on a contested national party convention. Toward the end of the primary calendar in mid-April, Manafort and Rick Wiley were reportedly given control of the campaign, as campaign manager Corey Lewandowski took on a smaller role. Wiley departed the campaign in late May, and on June 20, Lewandowski was fired. Manafort at that point became the clear leader of the campaign.
That was the case until mid-August, when Trump brought on Stephen K. Bannon as his campaign CEO and elevated Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager. Then, on Aug. 19, Manafort resigned over the questions about the direction of the campaign and -- more importantly -- increasing scrutiny over his ties to Ukraine's pro-Russia former leader.
You could argue that Manafort wasn't the unquestioned leader of the campaign for his entire tenure, but it's completely nonsensical to say that he played a “very limited” role for a “very limited” time. He was guiding the campaign's strategy while the primaries were happening, and he was in charge of ensuring that Trump's delegate lead resulted in him being awarded the nomination at the Republican National Convention.
But to argue that he wasn't a major player in the effort to elect Trump is just laughable. [The Washington Post, 3/20/17]
LIE 14: Officials Have Reached The “Conclusion” That There Was No Collusion Between The Trump White House And Russia
Spicer: Officials Reached “The Same Conclusion” That There Was “No Connection” Between The Trump Campaign And Russia. When asked about the possibility of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifying to the House Intelligence Committee about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Spicer claimed that “every single person who has been briefed on this” found “that there is no connection” between the Trump White House and Russia. Later on in the briefing, Spicer doubled down on his claim, stating “Republican, Democrat, Obama-appointee, [and] career [civil servant] have all come to the same conclusion.” From the March 28 press briefing:
SEAN SPICER: I know this will be a shocker but, again, part of it is that I think we've been very clear that when you actually get to the bottom of the facts, every single person who has been briefed on this, as I've said ad nauseam from this podium, that they have been very clear that there is no connection between the president or the staff here and anyone doing anything with Russia.
The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion, Republican, Democrat, so I'm sorry that that disgusts you.
OK, but understand this, that at some point, the facts are what they are, and every single person who has been briefed on the situation, with respect to the situation with Russia, Republican, Democrat, Obama-appointee, career [civil servant], have all come to the same conclusion. [White House Press Briefing, 3/28/17, 3/28/17]
FACT: No Conclusions Have Been Reached About Trump’s Ties To Russia
AP: “No Conclusions Have Been Reached At All.” The Associated Press (AP) disputed Spicer’s claim, writing, “The matter is being investigated by the FBI and two congressional committees, so no conclusions have been reached at all.” Additionally, the fact check pointed out, “Spicer's claim that even Democrats who have been briefed on the matter agree there was no collusion is at odds with statements from Democrats. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a recipient of classified briefings, has said ‘there is more than circumstantial evidence now’ of a relationship between Russian interests and Trump associates.” From the March 29 fact check:
The matter is being investigated by the FBI and two congressional committees, so no conclusions have been reached at all.
According to a report published at the end of the Obama administration by the outgoing director of intelligence, James Clapper, no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia had been established. But investigations are continuing into that very question.
FBI Director James Comey said last week: "I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."
He said that "as with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."
As for Clapper's report, his spokesman Shawn Turner said last week that the findings "could not account for intelligence or evidence that may have been gathered since the inauguration on January 20th."
Spicer's claim that even Democrats who have been briefed on the matter agree there was no collusion is at odds with statements from Democrats. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a recipient of classified briefings, has said "there is more than circumstantial evidence now" of a relationship between Russian interests and Trump associates.
Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser when his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. emerged. As for "staff here" being in the clear, as Spicer put it, they have neither been identified as targets of the investigations nor ruled out.
A close adviser to Trump, son-in-law Jared Kushner, has agreed to talk to lawmakers about his business dealings with Russians. Other Trump associates have volunteered to be interviewed by the House and Senate intelligence committees as well. [The Associated Press, 3/29/17]