No story is hotter across America this Memorial Day weekend than what the Federal Bureau of Investigation did—and did not do—in 2016 about Russian connections to Donald J. Trump. As the summer enjoys its unofficial kickoff, headlines and social media are overflowing with accusations, of varying degrees of veracity, regarding FBI counterintelligence operations around President Trump two years ago, as he was campaigning to take the White House.
Of late, the president has taken to Twitter even more manically than usual, hurling invective at the FBI for its alleged illegalities toward him and his entourage. Over the weekend, “executive time” has birthed batches of presidential rage-tweets about the alleged “Spygate,” complete with Trump’s trademark unusual capitalizations and quotations. “With Spies, or ‘Informants’ as the Democrats like to call them because it sounds less sinister (but it’s not), all over my campaign, even from a very early date, why didn’t the crooked highest levels of the FBI or ‘Justice’ contact me to tell me of the phony Russia problem?” the president asked on Saturday, adding that “This whole Russia Probe is Rigged.” Trump piled on three more angry tweets on Sunday, including the bizarre question, “Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt?”
Although it’s now evident that in mid-2016 the FBI used one or more informants to sniff around the Trump campaign, inquiring discreetly about connections to the Kremlin—a major concern for the Bureau when people with documented and troubling ties to Russia and its spy agencies like Carter Page and Michael Flynn appeared in Trump’s orbit—there was nothing untoward or disturbing about this. This is the FBI’s standard operating procedure in counterintelligence cases. Although Trump and his defenders have frequently stated that employing informants was illegal and scandalously inappropriate, that’s just one more Trumpian falsehood.
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