In Mach 2017, after Donald Trump falsely accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower, the White House was desperate to make the president appear less ridiculous. Sean Spicer, the press secretary at the time, defended Trump’s bizarre allegations by sharing with reporters a lengthy excerpt from a Fox News report, which alleged that Obama used a British intelligence spying agency to conduct surveillance on Trump before the election.
To put it mildly, British officials were not pleased, insisting that the report was ridiculously untrue. The White House apologized, Fox News backed off its report, and the international incident quietly faded away.
That is, until this morning, when Trump decided to peddle the exact conspiracy theory all over again. The president published this missive via Twitter:
“ ‘Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson accuses United Kingdom Intelligence of helping Obama Administration Spy on the 2016 Trump Presidential Campaign.’ @OANN WOW! It is now just a question of time before the truth comes out, and when it does, it will be a beauty!”
It’s probably worth clarifying a few of the relevant details. In this case, Trump was apparently watching the One America News Network (OANN), which is basically an even-more-extreme version of Fox News. This morning, it featured an interview with Larry Johnson, a far-right conspiracy theorist, perhaps best known for peddling claims about the “whitey tape” in 2008.
The president of the United States, having forgotten what happened the last time his administration peddled this foolish idea, apparently saw the interview and reflexively presented the conspiracy theory to the public as if it were true.
It’s not. Trump seems to occasionally forget that he’s the president, and not just some angry guy who offers knee-jerk reactions to nonsense he sees on television.
But what makes this truly extraordinary is the timing of the Republican’s misplaced missive.
It was literally just yesterday when Buckingham Palace announced that the UK would welcome Trump in June with the formality of a state visit.
One day later, the American president had no qualms about accusing British officials of participating in a spying scheme against him, based on absurd claims he saw some random conspiracy theorist make on an obscure far-right outlet.
The mind reels.