Just a few days after a weekend Twitter meltdown that featured a call for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the FBI "infiltrated" his campaign for political purposes, President Trump on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning fired off another torrent of tweets about the same subject. He even decided on a nickname for what he is desperately trying to position as a historic scandal.
SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
Since the New York Times reported last week that the FBI used an "informant" while investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia prior to the 2016 election, the president has used increasingly superlative language in denouncing what amounts to standard operating procedure for the Justice Department. Last week, he tweeted that it could be "bigger than Watergate!" Then it was the "all time biggest political scandal!" While fielding questions from reporters Tuesday afternoon, he said "it would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes."
Trump: “If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country, that would be one of the biggest insults that anyone’s ever seen … It would make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes" https://t.co/OFMUFBlxex— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 22, 2018
It’s important to remember that none of this has any grounding in reality.
Several of key figures in Trump’s campaign had ties to Russia, and the FBI was provided with information that the campaign knew Russia was working to interfere in the election, leading them to investigate. Nothing about the FBI's use of an "informant" – who was not a "SPY" – constitutes overreach, and it was certainly not illegal. There is no evidence the investigation was in any way politically motivated, and the "reports" cited by Trump are nothing more than bad-faith speculation from Fox News personalities. Nearly two years after the FBI began the "phony" investigation, over 20 individuals and businesses have been indicted, multiple key members of Trump's campaign have pled guilty and information suggesting criminality within Trump's campaign continues to emerge.
As with his weekend tirade, Trump’s tweets Tuesday night and Wednesday morning featured a dollop of authoritarianism. After asking the Justice Department to investigate its investigation into his own campaign on Sunday, Trump on Wednesday continued his attempt to undermine federal law enforcement, which he dubbed the Criminal Deep State.
Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
Part of why Trump's latest assault on those investigating him is so frightening is that it appears to be paying dividends. After asking the Department of Justice to look into the investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein directed the inspector general to do just that, lending credence to a wild conspiracy theory. On Thursday, intelligence officials will share highly classified information relating to the "informant" with only Republican members of the House, who will then presumably attempt to use that information to discredit the investigation. In the meantime, bombshell reports from last week and this weekend about the Trump campaign's meetings with Russians and representatives from the Middle East about influencing the election have largely rescinded from view.