U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at swearing in ceremonies for new CIA Director Gina Haspel at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in...
KEVIN LAMARQUE

Trump’s ‘Spygate’ scam continues to gradually evolve

Donald Trump’s timing could be better. The president spent the week peddling a nonsensical tale in which the Justice Department and the FBI “infiltrated” his 2016 campaign, “implanting” a “spy” in his operation. Yesterday, the story effectively unraveled.

At Trump’s insistence, federal law enforcement officials provided highly sensitive information to a group of lawmakers about a human source who assisted with an ongoing counter-intelligence investigation. One of the goals was to advance the conspiracy theory, but those who actually attended the briefing came away certain that there was no “spy.”

So, naturally, the president decided not only to tout his conspiracy theory anew, but also to take it a little further in a pair of tweets this morning.

“Can anyone even imagine having Spies placed in a competing campaign, by the people and party in absolute power, for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain? And to think that the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, LOST!

“ ‘Everyone knows there was a Spy, and in fact the people who were involved in the Spying are admitting that there was a Spy…Widespread Spying involving multiple people.’ Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist Senior Editor But the corrupt Mainstream Media hates this monster story!”

All of this quite sad, but I’ll confess it’s amazing to watch the evolution of a scam unfold in real time.

Trump initially said, for example, he wasn’t sure if “Spygate” was true. Now, in the absence of evidence, he’s certain it is true.

Trump also asserted there was a “spy” in his campaign. Now, he wants people to believe there were “spies.”

Trump originally argued the Obama administration was responsible for this non-existent scheme. This morning, the Republican said Obama’s “party” was involved, too.

Trump initially lied about former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, claiming the former DNI “sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign.” Confronted with facts that disproved the claim, Trump dropped the qualifier and made the lie more specific: “Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign.”

There is no aspect of the president’s conspiracy theory that makes sense or is supported in any way by evidence. There is no doubt that Trump is lying.

But it’s the evolution of the lie that tells us something notable about the president’s thought process. When Trump’s fairy tale faced scrutiny, he decided to add new and imagined details, as if conspiracy theories that change from day to day are somehow more credible, not less.

Best of all, there’s no reason to assume the story is necessarily done evolving. Of course, the question isn’t what new details he’ll make up next; it’s why anyone would even consider believing such transparent nonsense.

Conspiracy Theories and Donald Trump

Trump's 'Spygate' scam continues to gradually evolve