White House accused press of creating 'fake news' while spreading untruths itself
If special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation makes one thing clear, it is that many of the news reports US President Donald Trump branded as "fake news" were, in fact, very real news indeed.
While Mr Mueller's report didn't establish a criminal conspiracy and was "unable" to conclude that obstruction of justice occurred - contrary to hours of speculation among cable news pundits during Mr Mueller's long investigation - it also largely validated news accounts which Mr Trump dismissed or disparaged.
Instead, at least in the Mueller team's analysis, the fake news seems to have flowed not from the media but from the other direction.
His report cites multiple instances in which Mr Trump and White House aides misled or lied to journalists or in public statements as the investigation was unfolding.
On the day of Mr Mueller's appointment in May 2017, for example, White House aides said Mr Trump reacted calmly to the news. In fact, according to the report, Mr Trump's first reaction was anything but calm: "This is the worst thing that ever happened to me."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters repeatedly in May 2017 she personally had heard from "countless members of the FBI" that they were "grateful and thankful" to Mr Trump for firing FBI director James Comey. That never happened, Mr Mueller said. He wrote that Ms Sanders later acknowledged to investigators her comments were "not founded on anything".
Mr Trump also dictated a statement saying he had fired Mr Comey based on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But Mr Mueller found Mr Trump had already decided to fire Mr Comey before Mr Rosenstein had weighed in.
Mr Trump backed down and later publicly acknowledged he intended to fire Mr Comey regardless of Mr Rosenstein's memo after unnamed Justice Department officials "made clear to him" that they would "resist" the bogus justification, Mr Mueller said.
Incoming White House aides also lied about press accounts they knew were accurate.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn directed an aide, KT McFarland, to call the 'Washington Post' columnist David Ignatius during the presidential transition in January 2017 and deny his reporting about Mr Flynn's conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Ms McFarland "knew she was providing false information" when she called Mr Ignatius to dispute his surmise that Mr Flynn had discussed removing sanctions on Russia with Mr Kislyak. (© Washington Post)