Of Course Trump’s F.B.I. Spy Theory Is Totally Insane. It’s Also Working.
Select Members Of Congress (Perhaps Now Including Democrats) Will Get Briefed Today On What The F.B.I. And Justice Department Is Characterizing As “Highly Classified” Material, Per Trump’s Threats And Demands
This is the question from a reporter to Trump: “What proof do you have that your campaign was spied on?”
Here’s Trump’s answer (click on the photo to play):
For those of you who don’t have the time or inclination to look at the video, we think it’s important to examine exactly what Trump says:
“All you have to do is look at the basics and you will see. It looks like a very serious event, but we will find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened. I hope it’s not so, because if it is, there’s never been anything like it in the history of our country”.
That’s a ludicrously fancy way of answering: “Absolutely None”.
But that doesn’t really matter now, does it?
Yes, it’s been a big week for Trump in terms of making strides turning the Russia investigation into an investigation of the investigators, through an incessant campaign of hectoring and hyperbole. He’s finally getting some action, even as the walls close in.
Of course, even if Trump’s right and “a lot of bad things happened”, how will we even know? Presumably, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray, and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, who’ll be conducting the meetings, already know the “highly classified” info they’re intending to share, and they haven’t told us anything, so the only “new” people seeing it will be whatever Members of Congress they’re now sharing it with. And Devin Nunes would never leak classified info now would he? According to ABC News, the House Intelligence Committee Chair (and huge Trump fan) will be briefed first, along with fellow committee-member Trey Gowdy, (who’s more of a straight-shooter, and is retiring from Congress anyway), possibly followed by a second bipartisan briefing.
We can’t do a better job of refuting Trump’s theory of a nefarious F.B.I. conspiracy than Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.
But unfortunately, this isn’t a battle of facts right now. It’s a public relations battle. And some of Trump’s wild, baseless counter-punches are landing…Trump even tried to instruct the assembled media on how to market it: “We call it Spygate”, he suggests (a term he’s also used in Tweets).
Although there already are two other “Spygates” that we know of: The outing of C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame that resulted in the conviction of Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby during the Bush Administration (Trump just recently pardoned Libby), and of course the New England Patriots illicitly videotaping and stealing the New York Jets’ sideline signals. So maybe “Spygate 3”?
Ultimately, it may come down to how much the public trusts Trump vs. Rosenstein and Wray (Republicans both). And Special Counsel Robert Mueller (also a Republican).
Trump always has one advantage over Mueller: he can spin out his divergent narrative in tantalizing bits-and-pieces, Tweet-by-Tweet. Mueller can’t. Therefore, Trump’s insistence that Mueller’s investigation has not yielded any results, repeated day-by-day, always seems louder than Mueller’s significant results and convictions.
Still, while Trump made some big moves this week, and seems to be on the offensive, he’s still really playing defense. He’s not the one carrying the ball on the Russia investigation. Not yet.