Sunday, February 18, 2018
Business

PunditFact: Website wrong with attack on Donald Trump, Dakota Access Pipeline

The statement

Says Donald Trump was "caught investing in (the) Dakota Pipeline before signing it."

LearnProgress.org, Feb. 8 in a headline

The ruling

A left-leaning blog asserts that President Donald Trump was busted for approving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline for financial gain, but the facts of the case ended up being buried.

"Breaking: Trump caught investing in Dakota Pipeline before signing it," read the headline on an undated post on LearnProgress.org. The blog regularly posts items lambasting Trump and his policies.

Facebook flagged the post as being potentially fabricated as part of its efforts to weed out fake news in its users' feeds. Most instances of the story being shared on Facebook are on Feb. 8. The website did not answer our request to confirm the date.

But the implication that Trump approved the pipeline in order to profit from its construction doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

In the post, LearnProgress.org cited a Nov. 26, 2016, Associated Press report that showed Trump owned shares in two companies involved in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,168-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois.

Environmentalists and American Indian tribes have opposed the route of the pipeline, and in December then-President Barack Obama blocked completion of the project.

The AP story pointed out that Trump owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock for a Texas company called Energy Transfer Partners. He had between $500,000 and $1 million the year before that. He also owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in stock in energy company Phillips 66, which the AP says has a one-quarter share of the pipeline.

This was considered a potential conflict of interest for the future president, but to say he was "caught" is out of bounds. He listed the information on May 2016 federal disclosure forms.

Much has been made of Trump's stock in the companies. The issue was reported on widely, as was the fact that he said he sold the shares of pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners last summer.

The White House has not confirmed if he still owns the Phillips 66 shares, so that remains a question mark. A Trump spokesman we contacted did not answer our questions about those shares.

In any event, the headline suggests that Trump dumped a bunch of money into the pipeline and then approved its construction, ostensibly to make a big profit from it. The time line doesn't support that.

Trump said in December, before his inauguration, that he would restart pipeline construction. He didn't have any actual power to do so until Jan. 20, well after he sold his Energy Transfer Partners stock.

He did sign an executive action on Jan. 24 to get the pipeline moving again. Construction resumed on Feb. 9, and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe challenged the pipeline in court on Feb. 14.

The headline's assertion that Trump was caught in some kind of wrongdoing by investing in the pipeline before approving it is wrong and misleading. The potential conflict of interest was known and at least partially addressed before Trump became president and restarted the project.

We rate the headline False.

Read more rulings at PunditFact.com.

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