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Fact check: Whom to believe, Trump or his lawyer?

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President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and their son and Barron Trump, walk to Marine One across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 17, 2017, en route to Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and one of his personal lawyers have contradicted each other over whether the president is under investigation by the special counsel probing Russians' meddling in the 2016 election and possible links with the Trump campaign.

A look at recent statements by Trump and lawyer Jay Sekulow on the Russia investigation and a variety of other matters:

TRUMP tweet Friday: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt."

THE FACTS: This apparent slap at Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is at odds with Trump's own account of how James Comey was fired. Trump said previously that a memo from Rosenstein recommending the FBI director's termination didn't matter. "Regardless of the recommendation, I was going to fire Comey," he told NBC News in early May.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified to Congress that Trump wanted a memo laying out the case for firing Comey. But the president took sole responsibility for doing it, at least until he seemed to try to shift it Friday to the deputy.

It's also an oversimplification to say he's being investigated for firing Comey. Presidents have the authority to get rid of the FBI director. The issue is whether Trump criminally obstructed justice.

By Comey's account, the president leaned on him to back off the FBI's investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and fired him three months later as a way to alter the course of a broader probe into potential coordination between Russia and associates of the Trump campaign. Trump's tweet seems to confirm that his interactions with Comey now are part of the special counsel's expanding investigation — except that his own lawyer says that is not so.


SEKULOW, on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday: "The president is not a subject or target of an investigation."

THE FACTS: You can decide whether to believe the lawyer or the president and the multiple unidentified sources who told The Washington Post that the special counsel's investigation had grown to include Trump.

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Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel American Center for Law and Justice, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, before the House subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation hearing to investigate the Justice Department's investigation into the IRS abuse scandal. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sekulow said Trump was merely reacting to the newspaper story, suggesting the president had no first-hand knowledge whether he was being investigated. Indeed Trump is known to react viscerally to what he sees on TV or reads in a paper. On the other hand, he can tap the vast information-gathering capabilities of the White House and administration.


SEKULOW, explaining on CNN why Trump did not dispute the Post's story saying he was under investigation: "There's a limitation on Twitter, as we all know."

TRUMP: When Trump wants to say more on a subject than one tweet's 140-character content limit allows, he simply does what other Twitter users do: He writes more tweets about it. There's no limitation on doing that.


TRUMP tweet Sunday: "The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating. That's higher than O's #'s!"

THE FACTS: No other pollster has released a recent survey putting Trump's approval rating anywhere close to 50 percent. Most other estimates are near or below 40 percent. Rasmussen's final 2016 poll found Hillary Clinton up about 2 points nationally. That's very close to the final popular vote margin, but other polls conducted within the final two weeks before Election Day were also quite accurate on average.

Rasmussen's methodology uses automated phone calls, which have a mixed track record of accuracy in election polling. Federal law prohibits automated phone calls to cell phones, so Rasmussen must supplement its main sample with online interviews to reach the more than half of Americans who do not have landline phones. The details of how that online sampling is done are not clear.


TRUMP tweet Friday: "After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my 'collusion with the Russians,' nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad!"

THE FACTS: The president once again shows a lack of understanding of how law-enforcement investigations work, or a willingness to misrepresent the process. He's done this on several occasions.

Investigators follow evidence, interview witnesses and track down leads to assemble the most complete picture of events possible, then turn over their findings to prosecutors to assess whether a criminal case is warranted. Only if they decide to file charges and go to court is evidence shown.

The government's investigation, begun by the FBI last summer, is far from that stage and is still growing.


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President Donald Trump signs an executive order on Cuba policy, Friday, June 16, 2017, in Miami. The president announced changes to Obama-era Cuba policy, and challenged the Castro government to negotiate a better deal. From left are, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, the president, Martha Beatriz Roque, a Cuban political dissident, Vice President Mike Pence, and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

TRUMP: "Effective immediately, I am canceling the previous administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba." — remarks in Miami on Friday.

THE FACTS: Not so. He's preserving most of the important elements of Barack Obama's opening to the island.

Trump's policy keeps a U.S. Embassy open and allows U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to relatives and can still travel to the island without restriction. U.S. farmers can continue selling their crops to the Cuban government. The policy also allows Americans to continue patronizing state-run hotels and other businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba's military and state-security services.

The policy does, though, restore a requirement for most American travelers visiting Cuba to be with tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government has traditionally steered those tour groups to state-run business, meaning the majority of American travelers to Cuba will probably no longer be able to patronize private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and taxi drivers.


TRUMP: "You see the unemployment rate is at a very, very low level. Job enthusiasm and manufacturing, business enthusiasm is at record levels; never been higher... We've got it going." — remarks at a White House apprenticeship event Thursday.

THE FACTS: Trump has gone from "hoax" to hype on this statistic. Running for president, he took a swipe Aug. 8 at a just-released unemployment number, saying, "This 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in modern American politics." (The actual figure then was 4.9 percent.) Five months into his own presidency, the rate he now welcomes stands at 4.3 percent, arrived at by the same Bureau of Labor Statistics through the same methodology.

Through his campaign, Trump asserted the official jobless rate is phony because it leaves out millions who stopped looking for work. He vastly overstated that case, counting retired people and others who are choosing not to work as part of the problem. But now that a healthy official rate is reported under his watch, he grasps it as evidence of his success.

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Associated Press writers Emily Swanson, Julie Bykowicz, Alicia A. Caldwell, Matthew Lee, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Josh Boak in Washington and Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to this report.

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