Four years after the FBI sent “Confidential Human Sources” secretly to gather information on Donald Trump’s team, the president’s opponents in politics and the media continue to deny that the bureau spied on his 2016 campaign. They are now using that denial to dismiss questions of voting irregularities in the 2020 election by arguing that Trump and his allies traffic in outrageous falsehoods for partisan purposes.
During the vice-presidential debate, Mike Pence said, “When Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, the FBI actually spied on President Trump and my campaign.” The response from NBC “fact checkers” was to declare that “Pence repeated a false claim that Trump made during the first presidential debate – accusing the Obama administration of spying on their 2016 campaign.”
At Politico, Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio caricatured the accusation of spying as alleging “Biden was a mastermind of an effort to spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign,” saying it was a story “riddled with falsehoods, exaggerations and assumptions.” By pressing accusations of spying, the president has politicized “institutions in a way that will leave lasting damage,” Politico quoted Democrats saying. The outlet warned, “Trump may exacerbate that strain in the coming weeks.”
Last week, USA Today reporters Kevin Johnson and Kristine Phillips described as “debunked allegations” claims that Trump’s team had been spied on, while reporting that Attorney General William Barr, a prominent leveler of the charge last year, was now opening the Justice Department to “claims of partisan interference” with a new directive to investigate credible claims of voting irregularities.
Lesley Stahl, in her “60 Minutes” interview with President Trump ahead of the election, refused to even discuss the spying charge, rejecting it as unverified and untrue.
“The biggest scandal was when they spied on my campaign,” Trump told Stahl. “They spied on my campaign, Lesley.”
“Well, there’s no real evidence of that,” Stahl objected.
“Of course there is. It’s all over the place.”
“Lesley, they –”
“– spied on my campaign and they got caught.”
“Can I — can I say something?” Stahl said. “You know, this is ’60 Minutes.’ And we can’t put on things we can’t verify –”
“No,” Trump said, “you won’t put it on because it’s bad for Biden. Look, let me tell you –”
“We can’t put on things we can’t verify.”
Sen. Charles Grassley says Stahl and other media are denying the facts – facts that have not only been verified but proven: “The FBI ran confidential informants against multiple Trump campaign aides in the lead-up to the 2016 election,” the Iowa Republican told RealClearInvestigations. “They aggressively sought and received secret warrants to eavesdrop on Carter Page’s communications – warrants that were repeatedly renewed despite many critical flaws and omissions of exculpatory evidence. These facts are indisputable,” Grassley said. “Call it whatever you want to call it, but if this isn’t spying, I don’t know what is.”
This might appear at first glance to be a debate about semantics, a question of whether to call surveillance “spying” or something with less negative overtones, such as “intelligence-gathering.” Either way, it has been verified that the FBI took the extraordinary step of investigating an ongoing campaign for the presidency. It has also been verified that the bureau drew on its complete arsenal, including wiretaps and secret agents – both in-house “Undercover Employees” and contract operatives called “Confidential Human Sources.”
Though the FBI doesn’t use the word “spy” to describe its own activities, the bureau’s actions fit definitions of spying, old and new. In his 1755 dictionary, Samuel Johnson defined spying as “To search or discover by artifice.” Thomas Sheridan’s 18th century dictionary described a spy as “One sent to watch the conduct or motions of others.” Modern dictionaries differ very little from their precursors. A spy, according to the “American Heritage Dictionary,” is “an agent employed by a state to obtain secret information.”…
It’s ok, everyone knows Trump’s a racist and a sexist and whatever else the media overlords choose to brand him with. So nothing else matters, not even fascistic excesses in defense of our glorious democracy.