A riddle for America, 2018: Could President Trump devise a conspiracy theory so unhinged that not even his base will believe it? Seeing as that the president and Fox News are usually of the same mind, one consciousness depending upon the other, this would create a paradox. But with Spygate – the moniker Trump has given to his claim that the Obama administration planted spies in his campaign to gather intel – the president may have ventured too far out into space for even some of the most conspiracy-prone conservative fans.
On Tuesday afternoon, longtime Fox News host Shepard Smith – who has been critical of Trump in the past – dismantled several theories being peddled elsewhere on the network, including Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet claiming Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be "MEDDLING" in the upcoming midterm election. He wrapped up the segment by taking on Spygate. "President Trump has also claimed the feds spied on his campaign with an informant," Smith said. "The president calls it Spygate. Fox News can confirm it is not. Fox News knows of no evidence to support the president’s claim. Lawmakers from both parties say using an informant to investigate is not spying. It’s part of the normal investigative process.”
Holy shit, Shep is on a roll today.— Lis Power (@LisPower1) May 29, 2018
In just 2 minutes Shep dismantles almost every single recent Fox News narrative.
"Trump claimed Feds spied on his campaign ... calls it Spygate. Fox News can confirm it is not. Fox News knows of no evidence to support the president's claim" pic.twitter.com/nMk7uNhuZU
If evidence to support Trump's conspiracy theory did exist, the people who would know about it are the members of the House Intelligence Committee. Last week, members of the committee were invited to attended a classified briefing regarding the FBI's use of an informant to investigate potential Russian interference in the Trump campaign. One such member is Rep. Trey Gowdy, who on Tuesday appeared on The Story With Martha MacCallum to discuss the issue.
"President Trump himself in the Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did," Gowdy said. "I think when the president finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard."
"I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump," Gowdy said in reference to last week's classified briefing.
Following Gowdy on The Story was frequent Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, one of Trump's most trusted TV personalities who last year was temporarily prohibited from appearing on the network after pushing an unfounded theory that Obama had British Intelligence wiretap Trump prior to the 2016 election. Earlier this month, Judge Nap appeared to be toeing the company line in regard to the latest batch allegations that Trump had been spied on.
But when asked about Gowdy's comments, Napolitano surprisingly agreed that allegations "seem to be baseless" and that "there is no evidence for that whatsoever." He went on to say that using an informant to talk to "people on the periphery of the campaign" is "standard operating procedure in intelligence gathering and in criminal investigations."
“It’s clear that they had eyes and ears all over the Trump Campaign” Judge Andrew Napolitano— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
When MacCallum asked Napolitano why the president wasn't informed that someone in his campaign was being investigated, Napolitano acknowledged it was a judgement call. "Sometimes you don't want to tell people you're worried about whether or not their organization has been invaded, so to speak, because you don't want that word to get out there," he said.
MacCallum pressed Napolitano to cry foul, but he wouldn't give in – even suggesting that some people working for Trump "perhaps wittingly welcomed the Russian involvement in the campaign."
Though some corners of Fox News may be cooling on Spygate, Trump hasn't let up. During his Tuesday night rally in Nashville, the president gleefully brought up the issue after the crowd finished a "Lock Her Up!" chant. "So how do you like the fact that they had people infiltrating our campaign!" Trump yelled. "Can you imagine? Can you imagine? Can you imagine people infiltrating our campaign? Is there anybody in this big beautiful arena right now that is infiltrating our campaign? Would you please raise your hand?"
After Trump mentions Hillary Clinton at a rally in Nashville, fans chant "Lock her up!" Trump then asks "How do you like the fact they had people infiltrating our campaign?" #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/0lhASaug4i— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) May 30, 2018
Though conservatives like Smith, Gowdy and Napolitano have realized there's no factual basis to Spygate, the absence of evidence is irrelevant to the president. All that matters is if he can convince people that it might be true, and, in turn instilling a sense of distrust in the Justice Department, which just so happens to be accumulating an increasingly substantial mountain of evidence suggesting criminality. As long as the people within that big, beautiful arena in Nashville will buy into the president's bluster, the opinions of a few Fox News talking heads and an outgoing congressman are as irrelevant as the facts.