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Trump's man at the DOJ is feeding a new Clinton conspiracy

The Fox News and GOP spin doesn't line up with what a court document actually says.

Hillary Clinton isn’t running for president in 2024. She hasn’t held office since 2013. And yet, I’d argue that given the outsized fixation on her even now, she — not former President Donald Trump — is the central figure in conservatives’ imaginations.

The latest right-wing attack on Clinton claims her campaign “spied” on Trump during the 2016 campaign and his early days in office, echoing the long-debunked “Spygate” conspiracy theory, which falsely said the Obama administration surveilled him. It’s a claim that has Republicans practically giddy, as was made clear in a Fox News chyron Monday morning that looked straight out of 2010: “GOP Eager To Probe Hillary Clinton If House Flips.” That evening, Fox News was still at it, outright accusing Clinton of framing Trump.

As with so many of the conspiracy theories centered on Clinton, not much roots the right-wing hype to reality.

Trump himself in a statement Saturday called this nothing of a story a “scandal far greater in scope than Watergate” and averred that in “a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News on Sunday that Trump’s statement was “right on target” — seemingly including the unhinged call for the death penalty for Clinton’s retinue.

As with so many of the conspiracy theories centered on Clinton, not much roots the right-wing hype to reality. In this case, Clinton’s enemies are harping on a document special counsel John Durham filed in court last week, related to the disturbingly weak charges he’s brought against a former Clinton campaign lawyer named Michael Sussmann. Trump’s Justice Department asked Durham to investigate the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign by special counsel Robert Mueller, which hasn’t turned up the conspiracy against Trump that his supporters believe exists.

In asking the court to determine whether the law firm representing Sussmann has a conflict of interest, Durham filled in the rest of the document with mostly unrelated details that make great grist for the conservative outrage mill. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty, but here’s the part that the GOP thinks is worth new investigations:

The Government’s evidence at trial will also establish that among the Internet data Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited was domain name system (“DNS”) Internet traffic pertaining to (i) a particular healthcare provider, (ii) Trump Tower, (iii) Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and (iv) the Executive Office of the President of the United States (“EOP”). (Tech Executive-1’s employer, Internet Company-1, had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP. Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s DNS traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.)

Sounds shady, but Durham’s filing doesn’t leave the impression that this was any kind of “wiretap,” as Trump had claimed, or hacking to “infiltrate” his campaign, as Fox News’ headline put it. Even former Trump appointee John Ratcliffe had to admit on Fox News that there was nothing really illegal about how that data was obtained.

Nor is there any real connection to Clinton herself or her campaign, not in the Sussmann indictment nor in last week’s filing. Instead, it’s former Trump lackey Kash Patel, not Durham, who made that baseless claim to Fox News. Patel also issued a statement using the word “infiltrate,” which has become key to the current freakout.

Republicans love milking every possible Clinton scandal for all it’s worth.

Republicans love milking every possible Clinton scandal for all it’s worth. If House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., became speaker, he’d love nothing more than to spend his first years presiding over the Revenge of the Benghazi Committee, a sequel that absolutely nobody needs. His goal would be getting “Clinton” and “investigation” together in headlines, which gets the base going, even if there’s no malfeasance to uncover.

Whenever I write about anything related to Trump, especially his ongoing efforts to subvert democracy and the Constitution, someone in an email accuses me of having “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” I chuckle, but I’m struck by the irony given the Republicans’ continued obsession with Clinton. It almost feels Dadaist at this point, a trip into the absurd that will keep going until Trump has finally managed to “lock her up.”

Clinton won’t be on the ballot in 2024; Trump likely will. She isn’t holding rallies and encouraging future assaults on democracy; he is. Whereas Trump and his followers luxuriate in his ability to live in liberals’ heads rent-free, Clinton would very much like to be excluded from this narrative. But the GOP isn’t about to let a little thing like “facts” get in the way of the strategy of going after Clinton as a springboard back to power.