Russia investigation: Trump’s survival strategy
“President Trump is waging a war of attrition against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation”—and it’s working, said Dan Balz in The Washington Post. The president is pushing a conspiracy theory he’s labeled “Spygate,” insisting that the Obama administration “embedded” a spy inside his campaign. In reality, the FBI—alarmed by credible reports of Russian attempts to influence the presidential election—paid a retired academic to casually ask three Trump aides about any Russian collusion. This was an “informant,” not a “spy” planted inside the campaign. Nevertheless, Trump last week pressured Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into commissioning an Inspector General investigation into the FBI’s actions. At a meeting of Justice Department officials and congressional lawmakers to review some of the relevant documents, no evidence was found to buttress Trump’s claims. But by repeating “spy” and “witch hunt” over and over, the propagandist-in-chief has convinced most Republican voters that the Mueller investigation is unfair. The goal, of course, is to insulate Trump from the special counsel’s findings.
Actually, Trump is onto something here, said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. The government should never use its enormous intelligence capabilities to “interfere in an election.” To disregard that long-standing “norm” should require “strong evidence of wrongdoing”—evidence that, despite repeated requests to the Justice Department, we simply haven’t yet seen. Surely, you’re not serious, said Rick Wilson in the New York Daily News. The FBI used the informant because Trump aides were bragging that the Russians had stolen Democratic emails, and having numerous, secretive contacts with Russians. The fact that the bureau didn’t reveal news of the investigation until after the election proves this was no “Deep State” conspiracy.
You have to hand it to the president, though, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. He is “brilliant at the dark art of branding.” His supporters have “gleefully adopted” his use of the word “spy”—elevating this nonstory into a faux scandal. The fact that Trump’s strategy “is totally transparent” shouldn’t numb us to his contempt for the truth, said Chris Cillizza in CNN.com. The president is peddling a verifiably false conspiracy theory to “undermine basic confidence in our governing and law enforcement institutions.” To survive, it’s now clear, he will say or do anything.