The Short, Sad Life of SPYGATE!: Trump’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Got Debunked By Evidence in A Matter of Hours

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The Short, Sad Life of SPYGATE!: Trump’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Got Debunked By Evidence in A Matter of Hours

Two big Russia stories broke last week. The first was part of a week-long fake scandal called “Spygate,” the latest strategy Trump and his GOP co-conspirators have cooked up in their long string of harebrained schemes to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the nature of the Trump campaign’s election-year conspiracy with the Russian government. The Spygate story goes like this: The FBI, as part of a dark plot to bring Trump down, planted a spy in the Trump campaign. That would be really bad if it were true, but it isn’t. The FBI had an informant (an American professor living in London) talk to a few people in the Trump campaign over beers weeks after the agency opened its Russia investigation. That hasn’t stopped Trump from tweeting the word “spy” 25 times in the last week.

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This scandal reached a climax when Trump had the Department of Justice brief members of congress on the FBI’s use of that informant. Trump did this so he could have his GOP pals relay this inside information back to him so he could use it to inform his legal defense. Declassifying it himself poses a number of problems, including the sensitivity of the information and the fact that secrecy helps his legal strategy. So instead he trusted the task to Devin Nunes, then thought better of that and brought his own lawyer into it, which as we’ll see is an extraordinary abuse of power.

Yes: It’s insane that a lawyer to the President of the United States — who is currently a subject of a national security investigation — was allowed in or even near a briefing that detailed sources and methods related to a confidential informant involved in that investigation.

But Trump does have a genius: He came up with the name, so like it or not that’s what we’re calling it now, even though: a) there was no spying; b) he stole the name from an NFL scandal) involving his pals at the New England Patriots; and c) Trump by his own admission invented the name in order “to brand” the issue as sounding worse than it is.

But even though it’s super easy to find out for yourself that no one planted a spy in Trump’s campaign, another story broke last week that put the last stake in Spygate. Or should have, if Trump’s only talent is being the world’s most relentless liar. That story is part of the investigation into the very real and ongoing criminal conspiracy being carried out by Donald Trump and his GOP associates to secure his seat as King of America at any cost to democracy. The Wall Street Journal obtained emails from Roger Stone — an adviser to the Trump campaign and longtime Trump confidant who looks like this — seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton from Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in the form of some very specific emails.

Wow what a coincidence: The FBI planted a spy to trap the Trump campaign in a fake collusion story, while it just so happened the Trump campaign was also reaching out to collude with Russian agents.

(Collusion has no legal definition. It’s not a real crime, but it’s a synonym for real crimes — conspiracy against the United States, for instance.)

The asymmetric power of a single Trump tweet has required hundreds thousands of words of journalism to deep-six one inaccurate word, so here’s our fuel on the pyre: Paste Magazine’s obituary for Spygate, a short story.

We Hardly Knew Ye

Like any good conspiracy theory, Spygate was birthed from the canal of truth. It had been recently reported that the FBI had a confidential informant, a paunchy and frumpy American academic living in London, speak to a few members of the Trump campaign — George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, and Sam Clovis — as part of the FBI’s effort to figure out whether the Russian government had, as reports had indicated, been trying to infiltrate the Trump campaign. First, we haven’t seen any evidence that the FBI used this informant before they opened their official investigation, as Trump suggested this morning. And we haven’t seen any evidence that this informant made any attempts to actually join the Trump campaign — an accusation at the root of several tweets from Trump — or that he had any engagement other than a few conversations over beers. Anyone who’s seen a cop movie or TV show knows that informants are a standard tool that law enforcement uses in investigations. If you’re a little hung up on the terms, you can read more here.

But that long-time FBI informant has since been outed by name, first by the conservative “publication” the Daily Caller, followed by many others. These are the same people that a year ago were raising hell about Susan Rice “unmasking” members of the Trump campaign. But identifying an informant puts that person’s life in danger and makes other informants or recruits reluctant to work with the U.S., and can lead to intel atrophy, which endangers national security.

But then the president said “spy,” so here we are.

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But James Clapper said the opposite. Here’s the exchange Trump referenced, which happened on The View, of all places.

JOY BEHAR: So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?

CLAPPER: No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.

BEHAR: Well, why doesn’t like that? He should be happy.

CLAPPER: He should be.

And hey, if the deep state was trying to bring down Trump, I’d agree with the president: Clapper is the dumbest. That’s because no one in the intelligence community went public with the fact they’d been investigating Trump campaign advisers before the election, as if they somehow forgot to use it. The FBI also kept the Trump investigation even more tightly compartmentalized than a national security investigation would normally be. They were so successful that the New York Times actually published an article a week before the election with the banner headline “Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Ties to Russia,” which we now know wasn’t true. The FBI did, however, go public about reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton three days before that article ran.

The evidence suggests the FBI was trying to protect the Trump campaign. In mid-August, around the same time the FBI was trying to figure out the extent of any Russian infiltration in the campaign, the intelligence community warned Trump himself that they suspected Russians were trying to infiltrate his campaign. They gave the same warning to Clinton.

But Trump eats pieces of facts for breakfast. Last March, which feels like at least two years ago, Trump, offering no evidence, accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower before the election. That never happened. What’s different this time, though — and dangerous — is that Trump is acting on it.

Early this week the president decreed via tweet he’d order the Department of Justice to open an investigation into his misinformed hunch.

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This is crossing a humming, bright red line: The President is abusing his power to undermine an investigation into himself. But we’re all frogs in water and nothing matters.

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The DOJ and FBI agreed to Trump’s demand, and Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray set a briefing for Thursday, when they’d lay out classified information about the FBI’s use of informants in the investigation. Initially the White House only invited GOP representatives to the briefing, but because that would be appallingly antidemocratic even for them, at the last minute they said Democrats could attend, too. They then opened up the meeting to the “Gang of Eight,” which included party leaders from the House and the Senate.

Why would it be bad if only Republicans had been briefed? First, classified information would have been politicized. Terrible precedent. Worse, the information almost certainly would get leaked back to Trump to help him coordinate his defense, which, as Rudy Giuliani helpfully told the world, was the whole idea behind Trump’s demand.

(Again, note that Trump did not declassify the information. If he did, it would be available to everyone, not a secret weapon for his own legal defense.)

Still, the meeting was far from okay. The White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and the President’s lawyer, Emmett Flood, both attended the first few minutes of both briefings, where they each made a statement, and were seen leaving with Representatives Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy.

Let’s pull back: A lawyer for the President, who is currently under investigation, got to attend a classified briefing about that investigation. If he wanted to learn anything, he just had to stick around a few minutes and talk to Nuny Toons. Massive abuse of power, and clearly Trump now knows everything about that meeting. But, unsurprisingly, that’s not much. Here’s the statement from the Democrats who attended those briefings, saying nothing unsavory was revealed. But Trump, as you see from the tweet above, had of course already concluded the opposite:

This proved prophetic: A few hours later, it came around.


Last week the Wall Street Journal broke the story that it got a hold of some emails from Trump adviser Roger Stone, who was trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.


Stone, a longtime friend of Trump’s, has both admitted and denied being in contact with WikiLeaks. And it’s possible that he wasn’t in direct contact with anyone at WikiLeaks, because Stone isn’t terribly dumb. He ran his communication through a friend of his, radio host Randy Credico: “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011,” he wrote in a September 2016 email. Credico, a radio host who had recently interviewed Assange, told Stone that those emails could probably be found on the WikiLeaks website. Stone replied, “Why do we assume WikiLeaks has released everything they have ???”

Credico wrote that those emails would likely be in “the batch probably coming out in the next drop…I can’t ask them favors every other day .I asked one of his lawyers…they have major legal headaches right now..relax.”

This is hard evidence that Stone’s pal had a heads-up that stolen emails were dropping, and he gave that knowledge to Stone. They’d also obviously been in touch about this enough that Credico knew he was getting on Assange’s nerves. Assange and WikiLeaks are considered an extension of Russian intelligence.

Stone didn’t turn these emails over to congress in response to their request last summer.

It’s no secret that Stone has a close connection to WikiLeaks. He’s previously bragged he was in contact with, and has even defended, Guccifer 2.0, the Russian intelligence agent who hacked the DNC. Stone also seemingly predicted that the Podesta emails, which Guccifer had hacked, would come out.

Stone is also a longtime adviser to Trump and has close ties to Paul Manafort, with whom he opened a political lobbying firm in the 1980s.

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Stone has also lied on TV about what he’s known, and he apparently also lied to Congress about it. On October 2 Stone told InfoWars that “a friend of mine” had “met with Assange in London recently.” On October 5 Randy Credico tweeted a picture of himself outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange has been under house arrest for several years. (Assange has been a guest on Credico’s radio show multiple times.)

Stone then told CNN he “had no advanced notice of the content source or exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures.” He told Congress he had “no involvement in the collusion with the Russian state to affect the outcome of the 2016 election,” and that charges that he “had advanced knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures” involving Clinton “are entirely false.” It’s a crime to lie to congress.

Stone has since accused Credico of wearing a wire for Mueller, and maintains that the emails he refused to give Congress “fall outside the scope of their request.”

RIPIP Spygate.

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