In this Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/File/AP

White House’s source balks at Trump’s dubious Russia assertions

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Friday that Donald Trump believes allegations about collusion between his campaign and Russia “is a hoax.” Spicer added, “It’s been reaffirmed by several people, including [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck] Grassley and others who have spoken to him.”

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Later in the briefing, Spicer again pointed to the Iowa Republican, saying Chuck Grassley and others have said that on the question of collusion, “there was none.”

Grassley has been quite loyal to this White House, and he’s voted with Donald Trump’s position this year more than 97% of the time, but when Yahoo News followed up with the senator’s office, Spicer’s claims ran into a little trouble.
Just hours after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said President Trump had received assurances from a key senator that the idea of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was a “hoax,” a spokesman for the senator, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, denied any such conversation.

“Sen. Grassley has not spoken to President Trump about what he has learned in briefings related to investigations into Russian interference in our elections, and he has never referred to the notion of collusion as a ‘hoax,’” Grassley’s spokesman, Taylor Foy, emailed Yahoo News. Grassley is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and together with ranking minority member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been briefed on details of the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.

Even for this White House’s creative approach to political rhetoric, “hoax” is clearly the wrong word. The president and members of his team claimed for months that no one on Team Trump spoke to Russia while Russia was illegally intervening in the U.S. election, and those claims have now been discredited. What’s under investigation now is whether – and to what extent – Team Trump may have cooperated with Moscow’s espionage operation intended to put Trump in the White House.

The question is still very much under investigation, and the probes are likely to be ongoing for months. Trump, Spicer, and others may hope that evidence of collusion doesn’t end the president’s term, but the idea that the allegations themselves are a “hoax” is plainly ridiculous.

But even looking past curious word choice, Spicer made it sound as if the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee told the president the whole idea of collusion would inevitably collapse. First, Grassley couldn’t draw such a conclusion – the investigations are just now intensifying – and second, Grassley couldn’t share such baseless speculation with the president who may be brought down by the results of the ongoing probes.

No wonder the GOP senator’s office effectively said, “Um, no.”

The follow-up for Spicer today should be obvious: since the White House’s source just sold the press secretary out, does Team Trump have any actual sources we can ask to verify these dubious assertions?

Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump and Russia

White House's source balks at Trump's dubious Russia assertions