have become particularly outrageous in recent days.
1. He accused the NYT of concocting a source
who turned out to be a White House official. Many reporters
from different organizations heard him speak.
(Why is Trump the first president in history bedeviled by conspiracies to concoct "fake" sources? For as long as I've been alive, everyone has complained about the media, often for good reason -- but nobody in politics ever made the absurd claims that Trump has made.)
2. Trump claimed in a tweet that former DNI James Clapper revealed that the FBI spied on his campaign. Clapper said the precise opposite, and he told Rachel Maddow that the election of 2016 was, in essence, illegitimate.
(Clapper also seemed to lurch toward the view that Russia changed the vote tallies. Not too long ago, people used to scoff when I made that suggestion.)
3. In a tweet
, Trump asked
: If Russian infiltration was real, why didn't the FBI warn him? In fact, they did
. Trump knows this full well.
4. Trump told Annapolis graduates that his administration gave the military its first pay raise in ten years
. In fact, pay goes up every
year -- and Congress controls the power of the purse. In 2017, Congress gave troops a 2.1 percent raise, compared to 3.9 percent in 2009, when Democrats had total control of Congress. Trump's original budget asked for a number lower than 2.1%.
5. This headline says it all: "Trump Blames Dems For His Own Policy Of Separating Families At The Border."
A Trump tweet:
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S.
Less than a month ago, Sessions proudly announced that illegals would lose their children.
Don't be surprised if Trump blames Democrats for poisoning wells and for using the blood of Republican babies to make unleavened bread. Don't be surprised if Trump tweets that Dems sent Melania to the hospital.
(By the way, I'm baffled by the recent Melania mysteries. If anyone out there has a theory, please share.)
Why didn't they spy on on Trump?
I think that leading Dems have done us a disservice by turning Trump's "Spygate" claims into an argument over semantics -- i.e., "spy" vs. "informant." I even heard Joy Reid say words to this effect: "This wasn't spying; it was a counterintelligence operation." As if Jim Angleton didn't work for the CIA.
Yes, there are distinctions to be made. And yes, nobody planted a mole in Trump's campaign (that we yet know of). But abstruse arguments over terminology confuse the public and hide Trump's true sin.
Everyone with any sense knows what Trump is really
doing here: He's following Roger Stone's dictum -- always attack; never defend
. He's trying to turn his campaign's foulest crime into a weapon against his foes.
Dems would do better, I think, to argue that Trump's campaign was the first in history that needed
to be spied upon. Our FBI and intelligence community failed us not by targeting Trump but by permitting the impermissible. The so-called "deep state" did not protect the country from a foreign attack.
I could write a book outlining the many reasons why the FBI should have known that something terrifying was afoot in 2016. Here are just five of those reasons:
1. By 2016, the Russians had established a pattern of interfering in foreign elections.
2. The American intelligence community, as well as allied foreign services, believed that the Russians were attempting to help Trump win.
3. Trump's main national security adviser, former DIA chief Michael Flynn, had become involved with a Russian woman named Svetlana Lokhova
. Although she insists that she is not a Russian spy, her history suggests otherwise. From the point of view of a counterintelligence officer, she might as well have the initials FSB
stamped on her forehead. The Flynn/Lokhova relationship (which was close, though probably not sexual) had all the earmarks of a classic honeytrap, and explains why Flynn was "axed" to leave the DIA.
4. Another Trump adviser, Carter Page, had been targeted for FSB recruitment
years before. We know this because American intelligence overheard the communications of an FSB spy ring in this country. I have seen no proof that Page conclusively rebuffed their recruitment efforts. In the middle of the campaign, Page made a bizarre trip to to Moscow and met with Russian officials.
5. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chair, had basically functioned as a Putin hireling in Ukraine.
I could go on -- and on -- but those five points will do. Reason 4 is particularly compelling, since Page was the guy Stefan Halper met. Halper was also very concerned by the interaction between Flynn and Lokhova.
Please note that none of this had anything to do with the Steele Dossier, despite what you may have read on the right-wing sites. (One of the big lies Trump has successfully sold is "It all comes down to Steele.") Halper and Carter Page first met in June 2016, before
the Steele Dossier was compiled.
The big question is not "Why did the FBI spy on the Trump campaign?" but "Why didn't
the FBI spy on Trump?" In 2016, Halper was already in his 70s; he's not exactly James Bond. He did not infiltrate the organization; he met Page for drinks.
In my opinion, there should
have been infiltration and eavesdropping galore.
Would I be of the same opinion if reasons 1-5 applied to a Democratic
campaign? Damn right I would!
Look, I've spent much of life drawing attention to abuses by the intelligence services. I'm the original "Don't trust the spooks" guy. I've drunk saki with the publisher of Covert Action Information Bulletin
, I've made no secret of my belief that JFK was killed by CIA counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton -- and since 2004, I've maintained a blog which discusses the darker secrets of Spooksville.
But...come on. Come on
. Look at the Flynn/Lokhova interaction.
Look at Manafort's whole shady history.
Look at Carter Page and the Russians.
These are precisely the sorts of things that should
ring alarm bells within our intelligence agencies. Investigating such matters is what spooks are for
We know that the FBI was genuinely concerned by what they found, because they gave Team Trump a head's up. We know that Trump was a witting participant in the conspiracy because he ignored
that head's up. And now he pretends he never received the warning -- a pretense which is, in and of itself, quite telling.
The question we should be asking is not "Why did they spy on Trump?" but "Why didn't they do much more?" Perhaps even: "Why did our intelligence community protect and enable
Trump?" At another time, I will argue that the "deep state" was itself infiltrated by factions hostile to the very concept of democracy, and that this infiltration traces back to World War II. Perhaps earlier.
It's fascinating to see how the FBI is being used as the "fall guy" in these current scenarios. The "Halper as FBI agent" narrative doesn't make much sense and doesn't square with the man's history.
Why do the Trumpists continually squawk about the FBI? Because they want to undermine the Mueller probe and because they want to transform the DOJ into the sort of totalitarian persecution machine that Beria might have recommended. Similarly, the Trumpers have settled on the "deep state" euphemism because they fear to utter the dreaded initials "CIA."
Until Jim Hougan published Secret Agenda
in 1984, we didn't grasp the CIA's true role in Watergate (although very
close students of the case had an idea). We may have to wait a longer time to learn the truth about Trump, Russia and the Agency.
Was Trump an FBI asset?
Josh Marshall has pursued the theory that Donald Trump (like his pal Felix Sater) functioned as an FBI informant, thereby earning a pass for his many crimes. Marshall makes his argument in two tweets
When you lie a lot, weird things can happen. Prez Trump has been railing about an FBI informant who he calls a “spy”. So what’s DJT’s relationship to the FBI? Not this year or last year but over decades? What if he was also an informant? If he had been, what did he get a pass on?
Would he have been a “spy”. Do we need complete transparency? It’s already public knowledge that one of his closest business associates was an FBI informant for more than a decade. But I’m talking about Trump. If he was an informant, who was his handler?
Welcome to the party, Josh -- but you're a little late. Allow me to quote from a Cannonfire post published in May, 2017
Was Donald Trump an FBI asset? Such was the claim made by someone in the comments section of this very blog, just a few days ago. Unfortunately, the commenter couldn't back up his words with evidence. (Some parapolitical theorists have reached such a heightened level of cosmic awareness that they have transcended the need for "evidence" and "proof" and "citation of sources" and similar mundane trifles.)
Yet the allegation has a certain attraction. As all readers of Wayne Barret and David Cay Johnston know, Donald Trump has gotten away with all sorts of legally dubious crap over the years. It makes sense that Donnie would protect his interests by making various deals with the feds.
You may have noticed that Trump Tower has a history of renting to high-level crooks, and that the feds always found it easy to "tapp" those particular suites. (Apparently, there has been a lot of bugging in that building.) One example would be Felix Sater, a former Trump Tower tenant who himself functioned as an FBI informant.
If the "Trump as FBI asset" theory pans out, Josh Marshall will probably get credit, even though I published more than a year earlier -- and frankly, I made a stronger case. Similarly, most people credit Paul Campos for publicizing the theory that Shera Bechard aborted Trump's child, not Broidy's -- even though I was the first person to make that
Should I insist on getting credit for these things? Maybe not. Giu la testa
, as Sergio Leone might have put it.