Friday, May 18, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to hint that an FBI's use of an informant to fight Russia's infiltration into his campaign meant he was being "spied" on.

Trump's morning tweet session included a curiously worded conspiracy theory. He claimed that there were "reports" that an FBI agent had been "implanted" in his campaign "for political purposes," which would be a huge scandal--"if true." Trump provided no evidence for this claim, nor did he say who was "reporting" this.

This outburst is similar to his claim last year that President Obama had wiretapped his phones. Trump, who as president could have instantaneously learned the truth of the matter, has never backed up that claim either. But his campaign manager Paul Manafort was indeed under surveillance for his suspicious contacts with Russia and Russian-backed foreign governments. Manafort now faces dozens of charges, including conspiracy against the United States, as a result.

In reality, the FBI did use an informant (not an agent) to investigate George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, Trump's oddly underqualified "foreign policy advisers" during the campaign. Papadopoulos has since pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his secret meetings with Russian government agents. (Trump himself immediately disowned Papadopoulos, calling him a "liar.") Page traveled to Russia during the campaign and discussed the possible rollback of sanctions against that country, something the campaign tried to conceal.

Trump has been mobilizing political allies to expose the identity of the informant who worked with the FBI. His own hand-picked FBI director, Christopher Wray, objected strongly in public testimony to Congress on Wednesday to this, saying, "The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe. Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”

Why should anyone care about this?

  • Counter-espionage is part of the FBI's job.
  • A president who isn't corrupted or compromised by Russia should have no problem with American law enforcement protecting democracy from attacks by Russia.
  • Criminals who are caught by the people investigating them don't really get to complain that they were being "spied on."