Fairly early on Friday morning, Donald Trump raised the prospect of a Justice Department "spy" infiltrating his 2016 campaign. The president, whose affection for odd conspiracy theories is endless, went on to allege the FBI had "at least one" representative "implanted" in his political operation, "for political purposes."
Over the weekend, siding with congressional Republicans over his own administration, Trump added, "If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal."
Well, sure, but anyone can make any outlandish claim and say, "If this is true, it's a really big deal." What matters for those who take reality seriously is whether the claim is, in fact, accurate. And in this case, what the president alleged apparently didn't happen. As Rachel noted on the show on Friday, the New York Times had a good report on what actually transpired.
In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.
The Washington Post had a related report, noting that the FBI made use of "a longtime U.S. intelligence source" because of the bureau's concerns about Russian interference in the American election.
The article added, "There is no evidence to suggest someone was planted with the campaign." Similarly, the Times' report noted, "No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.'s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal."
What we appear to be looking at is a story in which federal law enforcement was concerned about Trump campaign officials' communications with Russian operatives, and the legal methods the FBI relied on as part of the investigation.
Or put another way, what the president claimed simply wasn't true.