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Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march through St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 9, 2017. (AP photo) Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march through St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 9, 2017. (AP photo)

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline march through St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 9, 2017. (AP photo)

Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin February 16, 2017

Trump 'caught investing' in Dakota Access Pipeline before approving it, website says

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 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, 2017. 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, 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 Native American 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 in the summer of 2016.

The White House has not confirmed whether he still owns the Phillips 66 shares, so that does remain 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 timeline doesn’t support that.

Trump said in December 2016, before his inauguration, that he would restart pipeline construction. He didn’t have any actual power to do so until Jan. 20, 2017, 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.

Our Sources, "BREAKING: Trump Caught INVESTING in Dakota Pipeline Before Signing It," February 2017

CNN, "Donald Trump's personal financial disclosure report," July 22, 2015, "Donald J. Trump files personal financial disclosure form with the Federal Election Commission, May 17, 2016

Washington Post, "Wealth Personal financial disclosure report 2," May 18, 2016

ABC News, "7 Things We Learned From Donald Trump’s Personal Financial Disclosure Form," May 18, 2016

CNN, "5 things to know about the Dakota Access Pipeline," Aug. 31, 2016

Dallas Morning News, "Financial interest between Donald Trump and Dakota Access pipeline goes both ways," Oct. 26, 2016

The Guardian, "Dakota Access pipeline company and Donald Trump have close financial ties," Oct. 26, 2016

NBC News, "What Will a Trump Presidency Mean for the Dakota Access Pipeline?," Nov. 12, 2016

Washington Post, "Energy and Environment Trump dumped his stock in the Dakota Access pipeline owner over the summer," Nov. 23, 2016

Associated Press, "Donald Trump's stock in oil pipeline company raises concern," Nov. 25, 2016

Washington Post, "Trump’s stock holdings may give him a personal stake in rules on banks and oil firms," Dec. 2, 2016

Politico, "Obama administration blocks Dakota pipeline, angering Trump allies," Dec. 4, 2016

CNBC, "Trump sells his stake in Dakota Access Pipeline developer," Dec. 5, 2016

Reuters, "Trump supports completion of Dakota Access Pipeline," Dec. 5, 2016

CNBC, "Trump signs executive actions to advance Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines," Jan. 24, 2017, "Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline," Jan. 24, 2017

The Hill, "Trump administration giving final green light to Dakota Access pipeline," Feb. 7, 2017

Los Angeles Times, "Construction resumes on Dakota Access pipeline," Feb. 9, 2017

NBC News, "Standing Rock Sioux File Challenge After Trump’s Action on Dakota Pipeline," Feb. 14, 2017

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Trump 'caught investing' in Dakota Access Pipeline before approving it, website says

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