Donald Trump, Spygate, and What Happens Next

I hope everyone reading this knows, or at least suspects, that President Trump’s talking point that the FBI put a spy in his campaign is a lie. There is no Spygate. Spygate is lie-gate (as someone else said, but I can’t remember who). Spygate is a conspiracy theory. It has no basis in fact.

It began around three weeks ago when Trump, via his faithful Twitter account, made the announcement that former president Obama had used the FBI to put a spy inside his (Trump’s) 2016 presidential campaign. He then passed that info onto Hillary Clinton to help her design tactics to win the election.

That is a load of balderdash.

Here are Trump’s original tweets:





(Judge Andrew Napolitano is a Fox News commentator.)



I saw the interview with former CIA Director James Clapper. This is only a partial quotation and completely misrepresents what Clapper said. Clapper specifically said that the FBI did NOT have a spy in the Trump campaign, that he did not like the word “spying” because there was no spy, and he’s only using it because that’s the word Trump used.

Further, the reason Clapper thought Trump should be happy was because it meant the FBI were checking up on things, trying to protect Trump’s campaign from Russian interference.

Trump completely made up Spygate from some minor details that are part of the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.


What Really Happened?

We, the public, don’t know the full details as this investigation is ongoing. What we do know is that the FBI thought the Russians may have surreptitiously put someone inside the Trump campaign. Despite the impression Trump is giving now, and the story that is coming out of Fox News, Trump knew this. Wikipedia says:

According to NBC News, around July to August 2016, after Donald Trump had become the Republican nominee for president during the 2016 presidential election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “briefed and warned” Trump that foreign adversaries, which included Russia, would probably attempt to spy on and infiltrate his campaign. Trump was told to alert the FBI of any suspicious activity. White House spokesman Raj Shah acknowledged that “the Republican and Democrat nominee for president received a standardized briefing on counterintelligence” and said that NBC News learnt “about the contents of this classified conversation due to an inappropriate leak”.

At some point, the FBI spoke to three members of Trump’s campaign to find out if there was any Russian infiltration. Those three people were Sam Clovis, George Papadopolous, and Carter Page. Papadopolous and Page were already separately under investigation because of their Russian contacts. (Also already under investigation back then were Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort.)

Trump Spy vs Spy cartoon


Spygate Begins

Because of the control Trump has over the Republican party, he was able to convince many initially that his conspiracy theory might be true. Thus, there were calls for a full investigation of the FBI, the Justice Department, and a demand for details of an ongoing investigation to be made public.

This was completely unprecedented, and the FBI and Justice Department naturally pushed back. This was characterized as an attempt at a cover up.

The media asked Trump for evidence, but the best he could do was to say to tell them to just look at the internet. He said it was all there online if people would just search for it.

Trump also lied about not knowing about the problem of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. From Wikipedia:

On May 26, 2018, Trump questioned “why didn’t the crooked highest levels of the FBI or “Justice” contact me to tell me of the phony Russia problem?” However, according to NBC News, Trump was warned by the FBI around July to August 2016 about possible Russian espionage and infiltration into his campaign.


Support for Trump

Trump supporter cartoonMultiple conservative Republican organisations and media sources came out in support of Trump despite his not being able to produce any evidence for his claims.

Several commentary shows on Fox News echoed Trump’s criticisms of the FBI, and for there to be an investigation. ‘Fox & Friends’, ‘Judge Jeanine’, ‘The Tucker Carlson Show’, ‘The Ingraham Angle’, some of the presenters on ‘The Five’, and, of course, ‘Hannity’ all added their voices to the cause.

Several of these come across as news shows, and it can be very hard for people to tell the difference. The real reporters on Fox News were saying the same things that most proper reporters were – that this was a made up story. However, as you will see in the CNN clip below, they were openly contradicted by the Fake News purveyors.

Other supporters of Trump’s conspiracy theory were the usual suspects: Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones of Infowars.

Trump’s anti-FBI tweets went on, and his personal lawyer publicist went on every network possible in support of his client. To those who could see that this wasn’t true, Rudy Giuliani was making a fool of himself. However, his appearances has a quite difference effect on Trump supporters. Giuliani’s appearances helped to firm support for Trump.

Lou Dobbs of Fox News Business even began referring to “multiple spies” infiltrating the campaign months earlier than previously suspected, and Trump picked up on this in his tweets too.


The Balloon is Pricked

Eventually, the security services agreed to give a confidential briefing to certain intelligence committee members.

Following the briefing, Congressman Trey Gowdy, (R-South Carolina) spoke:

I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.

The CNN ‘AC360’ clip below shows details three more GOP members:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Senator Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Congressman Tom Rooney (Florida).

The most important is Paul Ryan, who specifically stated that he was in agreement with Gowdy. Rooney’s comments were quite unequivocal. From Politico:

“What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?” Rooney said in an interview on Wednesday. “You know what I’m saying? It’s like, ‘Lets create this thing to tweet about knowing that it’s not true.’ … Maybe it’s just to create more chaos but it doesn’t really help the case.”


Trump’s Latest Spy-Gate Texts

But Trump is still pushing his conspiracy, and so are Fox News and Fox News Business:






Fox News and the Trump Cult

Fox News has had a very successful run since their beginning. As the only national right-wing television news outlet, they were filling a vacant niche. Those of us with a more liberal bent may not have much time for their particular spin, but there are plenty who do.

As regular readers know, I watch Fox News a lot. Well, I used to. Over the years, my viewing has become less and less. The time of my viewing in New Zealand coincides with their prime time. I record both CNN and Fox News, so I can watch both.

I feel a responsibility to educate myself with both sides of the argument. When I first started doing it, I was still engaging on Twitter a lot, and in some other fora. It was useful there. I knew all the arguments that those on the right were going to come up with, and so I already had answers for them.

At the moment, it’s been about three months since I saw a show on Fox News. I just find it increasingly hard work – especially the opinion shows. There are too many at Fox News who are quite happy to lie for the cause. I can handle listening to a different opinion or point of view. I cannot handle outright lies and misrepresentations.


The Trump Kool-Aid

We atheists often note how the religious will lie for their cult/religion. Lying for Jesus is a hashtag. Those who do it see absolutely nothing wrong with what they’re doing. They also cherry-pick information, and ignore information that shows they are wrong.

More and more, this is what Trump supporters are doing. That core who can either see nothing wrong with him, or who will accept anything he does as long as it’s him doing it, show all the signs of being a cult.

I’m neither the first nor the only one to have this opinion. It’s becoming a common realization among more and more of those to both the left and right of centre. Basically, anyone who isn’t part of hard right or extreme left. One who spoke out recently is Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters (retired).

Peters describes a “Trump cult” and viewing numbers for Fox News prime time show he may be correct. The May ratings have Fox News rising to #1 in all time slots, and ‘Hannity’ is the most popular of all. Previously, ‘Hannity’ was losing viewers. MSNBC and CNN, on the other hand, are both going down in the ratings, even in the younger demographic. Fox News is picking up there too. This rise seems to go along with the network’s decision to drink the Trump Kool Aid, as the saying goes in the US.


Lt. Col Ralph Peters, Fox News, and the Trump Cult

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters (retired) was a military analyst for Fox News and Fox Business for ten years. He chose not to renew his contract back in March in disgust at what he considers the network has become. It is, in his opinion, now little more than a “Trump Cult”. His only regret, he says, is that he didn’t leave and speak out earlier.

The prime time presenters in particular, he thinks, are presenting an anti-constitutional, pro-Trump narrative that is dangerous to the country. Sean Hannity, he says, appears to really believe what he says. The others, Peters thinks, are too smart not to know they are lying. He believes the network’s motive is money and ratings.

(The current prime time presenters on Fox News are Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity.)

Two days ago (6 June US/7 June NZ), Peters gave his first on-camera interview to CNN‘s Anderson Cooper on ‘AC360’.



Peters speaks fluent Russian, and is an expert in Russian military intelligence. This informs his opinion that Putin must have something on Trump. To him, there is no other explanation for Trump’s behaviour and actions in relation to Putin and Russia.

Peters is no fan of the Democrats. His frequent tough criticisms of Obama’s policies are legendary. The Washington Post says this about Peters’ comments in relation to Obama:

… Peters was frequently blunt in his comments about the Obama administration’s relations with Russia. In 2014, he said that President Obama got “date raped” in his efforts to negotiate with Putin. On Bill O’Reilly’s program in late 2015, Peters called Obama’s Syria strategy “inept, ineffective and cowardly,” and described Obama as a “terrified little man in a great big job he can’t do.”

He apparently went too far a few weeks later on Fox Business Network when he called Obama “a total pussy for his administration’s counterterrorism policies, earning a two-week suspension.

Fox News Stops Asking Peters to Comment re Russia

Peters complains that once it became obvious that he was in disagreement with Trump over Russia, he could no longer talk about that topic. Peters himself wrote in the Washington Post:

As early as the fall of 2016, and especially as doubts mounted about the new Trump administration’s national security vulnerabilities, I increasingly was blocked from speaking on the issues about which I could offer real expertise: Russian affairs and our intelligence community. … I believed an investigation into Russian interference was essential to our national security, I was excluded from segments that touched on Vladimir Putin’s possible influence on an American president, his campaign or his administration.

I was the one person [at Fox] who, trained in Russian studies and the Russian language, had been face to face with Russian intelligence officers … yet I could only rarely and briefly comment on the paramount security question of our time: whether Putin and his security services ensnared the man who would become our president. Trump’s behavior patterns and evident weaknesses (financial entanglements, lack of self-control and sense of sexual entitlement) would have made him an ideal blackmail target — and the Russian security apparatus plays a long game.

Fox Denies Peters’ Accusation

Fox News told the Washington Post that there was “… no truth to the notion that Ralph Peters was ‘blocked’ from appearing on the network to talk about the major headlines, including discussing Russia …”.

To me, this does not mean that Peters is lying. There is a difference between blocking someone and not asking them to speak in the first place. It appears to me that the latter was the Fox strategy. Peters says as much in his Washington Post article, ‘Why I left Fox News‘. Basically, Fox just didn’t call him for segments about Trump, Putin and Russia. Instead, he had to:

“… [listen] to political hacks with no knowledge of things Russian tell the vast Fox audience that the special counsel’s investigation was a “witch hunt,” while I could not respond, became too much to bear. There is indeed a witch hunt, and it’s led by Fox against Robert Mueller.

Vox Summary of Spygate Tactics

Vox News produced this YouTube summary of Spygate and previous similar tactics used by Trump. It explains not just what really happened in relation to this particular conspiracy, but how Trump has done the same thing multiple times in the past.

These data from the video give evidence that Trump’s tactics are working.

The first shows that 68% of Republicans believe that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 election. On top of that, almost half of them believe Trump really won the popular vote.


Graph: False beliefs in 2016 election

(Source: Vox video. Click graphic to go to video.)


This one is another example of the fact that faith in Trump is cult-like. He keeps repeating something in the same way a religious leader does, and his followers accept it as true despite the evidence. In this case, Trump says he was wiretapped by Obama during the 2016 election campaign, and a huge 74% of Republicans think that’s “very likely” or “somewhat likely”.


Graph: Likelihood of Trump being wiretapped.

(Source: Vox video. Click graphic to go to video.)


The biggest problem is the consequence of this. We all know that the partisan divide in the US is getting bigger all the time, but there is another fundamental issue. Trust in institutions like the FBI helps bind society together. Trump is deliberately setting out to erode that trust for his own selfish purposes.

These graphics show what has happened to trust and confidence in the FBI since he same into office. In the first, those whose opinion of the FBI is “somewhat favourable” or “mostly favourable” has gone from 69% to 49% in the thirteen month period – a twenty point drop.


Graphic: Overall opinion of the FBI

(Source: Vox video. Click graphic to go to video.)


This one shows that a massive 74% of people who voted for Trump think the FBI has a bias against him. Many of those people are going to have difficulty accepting an investigation that comes out against him, whatever the evidence.


Graphic: Is FBI biased against Trump

(Source: Vox video. Click graphic to go to video.)


Trump Lies – A Recurring Theme

For Trump’s supporters, the truth is what Trump says. On 1 June 2018, the Washington Post fact checker said, ‘President Trump has made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 497 days‘.

In the PolitiFact list, there are 475 half-true, mostly false, false, and pants-on-fire statements.

Trump's PolitiFact scorecard.

Out of 567 statements PolitiFact analyzed, only 27 that are completely true. That’s less than 5% – less than one in twenty. Trump doesn’t even know how to tell the truth, yet a third of the country believe every word he says.


Conspiracy Theories are a Deliberate Tactic to Discredit

Spygate isn’t the first conspiracy theory Trump has used to distract everyone from reality, and it won’t be the last.

However, the conspiracy theories are getting bigger because there’s more to hide. You can bet discrediting anyone or anything that might have deleterious information on him will be a priority. He’s already had Robert Mueller, Christopher Steele (of Steele dossier fame), and the FBI in his sights.

He’s also tried to downplay his contact with others. Paul Manafort was his campaign manager for months and was initially credited with all sorts of successes. Following his arrest, he became a nobody. George Papadopolous became a “coffee-boy” when he was arrested. He didn’t even know Carter Page despite naming him as an expert. Those characterizations and others are used by his supporters as soon as Trump gives the lead.


Trump is Winning

In every way that is important to the success of his country, Trump is losing. Even where the country is currently doing well and he is claiming the glory (low unemployment, talks with North Korea) the success is either not down to him or in spite of him. There are areas where I think disaster is looming because of him, and I really worry.

However, for a pretty big chunk of the country, Trump is up there with Jesus. Last weekend, Lance Wallnau let that audience know that God has assigned the same angel to Trump as he did to President Reagan. They believe Trump was put in the White House by God, and anyone who criticizes him is under the control of demons.

Trump is winning the culture wars though inasmuch as the country is focused on him, and what he thinks. He’s controlling the zeitgeist in many ways. He’s controlling public opinion. People have lost trust in the media because of him, and are losing trust in the pre-eminent law enforcement agency, the FBI.

The reaction of Trump to the Mueller investigation is making it increasingly obvious that he’s guilty of something big and bad. However, because around a third of the country are part of the Trump Cult, and a lot more are partly infected, a lot of people are going to be convinced he is innocent, and even more are going to wonder.

That makes me really worry what will happen when the results of the Mueller investigation are made public. It won’t be pretty.


Trump cartoon



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21 Responses to “Donald Trump, Spygate, and What Happens Next”

  1. Randall Schenck says:

    Very good article and I particularly like the finish. The unknown, the future is always the direction we look and with this nut case, we do not know and I suspect lots of people are scared. I also like the connection to the methods with religion. They almost mirror each other with declarations and complete lack of evidence. The only thing I can say about Col. Peters is, what took you so long.

    I would still encourage any who are interested to take a look at the book a years or so ago, The Dangerous case of Donald Trump. This is a look at the mental difficulties highlighted by 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts. I think people still today, underestimate the mental disorders of this guy.

    Trump does not live in a world of reality like many of us. And the fact that there are millions of low intelligence people in America willing to follow this mush head down the path is also not completely surprising. This place has been on the dumb down train for a long time.

    • A lot of the people who voted for him are those who not only don’t recognize and appreciate the value of experience, knowledge, and expertise, but they can’t see Trump doesn’t even have it in his own field. Being wealthy and famous and on TV is seen as having ability. Republicans are very good at complaining about the dominance of Democrats in Hollywood and their effect on culture, but they’re the ones that elected and worship Trump and the better but still bad Reagan. They fall for hashtags like #CrookedHillary, and won’t vote for her because they don’t like her voice. Not just the US but the whole world would be a much better place with her as president.

      Quite apart from anything else, she would recognize the need to swot up for a meeting with Kim, even though she already has significantly more knowledge and understanding than Trump about the situation.

  2. Yakaru says:

    Thanks for the summing up and analysis, Heather. (I have only limited internet access at the moment, and usually only check to make sure your friend Jerry still has all his ducks in a row!)
    It is just horrible to watch what is happening to the US and the way it is spilling out into the rest of the world. I imagine if you could survey chimps about 60% would say their society sucks too, but they wouldn’t be able to change it.

  3. Mark R. says:

    I wish the rest of the world would push back more since Congress and the cult will not. Merkel should kick out Trump’s German ambassador for meeting with far-right (neo-nazi) players and saying to Breitbart he’s trying to undermine the Merkel administration. The G-7 should make it G-6 and kick America out. Everyone seems to give this guy a pass while the shit is coming down everywhere you look.

    The American press should stop sending their best and brightest to listen to Sanders’ lies and distortions. There is nothing there to report; go out and do some gumshoeing, do some real investigative reporting, do something useful. Wouldn’t that be awesome if Sarah went out to the podium to find only Fox News reporters there? The media just makes all this worse by acting like this illegitimate president is business as usual. They don’t know how to report the truth anymore nor do they know how to protect it. When is there any substantive push back on the ubiquitous lies? I read headlines like: Trump is attacking our Allies. I don’t know if I’d call Canada, Mexico and the EU ‘allies’ anymore; to Trump they’re antagonists. Now it seems China and Russia are filling that role; Trump even stated he thinks Russia should be allowed back at the G-7 table. WTF?

    I don’t know if America’s institutions were ever strong enough to withstand a true authoritarian…especially one that had the full spineless backing of the majority party. I know the America public used be strong enough when truth mattered, when news was real and a private propaganda network wasn’t the only source of information for millions.

    • I blame the media for Trump’s election. They gave him billions of dollars in free advertising and treated him like a legitimate candidate. They did things like carry whole rallies live so no other network could beat them to the latest outrageous statement. Every thing he did had to have Hillary being criticized too to provide “balance,” but that meant everything got compared to the emails, which made them look bigger and his stuff seem minor.

      To be fair, the WH press pool is starting to push back, but it’s taken 500 days. There’s also some pretty good reporting from WaPo and NYT. The problem is Trump’s sheep aren’t hearing it, and when they do, many don’t believe it. It’s like trying to convince Evangelical Christians the Theory of Evolution by natural selection is true, and it’s not possible that we all descended from Adam and Eve. If Trump did it, it’s okay. God is working through him to save the country and the world.

      • nicky says:

        I’d blame counting fraud for Mr Trumps election, if I had to choose the most important one, or the most direct one, from the many causes.

        • I should have said I don’t think they’re the only problem. All the causes you’ve outlined in the past are important. My pick for #1 is Comey, though I admit my ranking changes from time to time.

  4. nicky says:

    Thank you Heather, for a good analysis.
    Sadly it only reinforces my suspicions that Mr Trump is a Russian shill (an idea I would want to fight, because it is so ‘conspirational’).
    In an earlier post you made a great effort (which I admired) to ascribe it to his multiple personality disorders. However, Mr Trump maybe ignorant, but stupid he’s not.
    Occam’s razor forces us to think otherwise than his personality disorders. Lt Colonel Petersen’s opinion, and he’s way better placed than you or me, basically contends the same. Mr Trump is in Mr Putin’s pocket, a shill.
    Earlier I tried to summarise Mr Putin’s (former KGB) aims, as far as we can imagine (sorry for repeating myself):
    – lift or restrict sanctions
    – divide the ‘West’
    – isolate the US
    – divide the US from within
    What Mr Trump is doing is exactly that. I think the burden of proof that he’s not a shill, is on the Trump-cult followers.

    • Mark R. says:

      Getting out of the Iran deal will push oil prices up which directly affects Putin’s economy in a positive way; an economy pretty much dependent on fossil fuels. Keeping oil prices low is a direct impediment to Russian interests.

      Your four points are extremely salient and need repeating.

      It’s almost impossible not to see that he is a shill for Putin. The rampant and prideful ignorance that has amassed among the American population freaks me out. I’m glad I live in a blue part of a blue state, but that’s just a minor relief.

      • That’s a really important point – high oil prices directly benefit Putin and Russia. Saudi Arabia, who have the cheapest processing cost and the most, easily accessible oil, have been keeping prices low deliberately to hurt Russia as part of the US and others not making too much noise about their human rights abuses and help in Yemen. I wrote about the damage low oil prices was doing to the Russian economy some time ago. Putin really wants prices to go up!

    • I think Putin is able to control Trump because he has something on him. This latest idea already mentioned in the thread where he suggests it’s time to have Russia back in the G7 has to have come from Russia. Trump would NOT have thought of that on his own. I’d be surprised if he even knew the G7 and the G8 are the same things.

      And, of course, letting Putin back into the G7, making it the G8 again, would be the first step to acceptance of his annexing of Crimea.

      Like Peters, Clapper, Comey, and several others who have spoken out on the matter, Trump is acting like Putin has kompromat on him. There are three other possibilities I can see, but they’re all less likely:
      1. He has kompromat on Ivanka.
      2. Putin has made promises about deals for hotels, golf courses etc in Russia if Trump behaves.
      3. Trump’s allegiance is to Russia and not the USA.

      I suspect that the kompromat is to do with money or sex or both. I expect most people think the same.

      I personally wouldn’t use the word shill because to me it means his primary allegiance is to Russia and he’s doing all this for a higher purpose (in his own mind). Different cultures use words differently, so I don’t know if this is a cultural misunderstanding or you have a different idea of Trump’s motives to me.

      I agree that Trump is ignorant, but not stupid. However, I also think his personality plays a big part in this.

      Trump believing he can rely on his instincts for the meeting with Kim is a made to measure extreme example for one half of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. (Obviously, the half where people don’t know enough to realize how little they know and thus have misplaced confidence.)

  5. Randall Schenck says:

    All of your comments here make for a very depressing picture. That would be because it is extremely depressing. It’s like we went to bed one night and woke up the next day to this. Unfortunately the direction, the trend, has been headed this way for a long time. The congress has been abdicating it’s responsibility and everything else to the executive branch for years. This eventually leaves the legislative part of government useless and also directs all powers to govern to you know where. So, when a Trump arrives during a dumb age when the republican party has reduced itself to the angry, stupid party, it is easily taken over. With unlimited money buying all of these so-called representatives of the people they have no morals and no care what really happens. For some time the media and others have been waiting for the “party” to do something. There is nothing left to do anything. So then it is up to the people. That is where we are now. 30 to 40 percent of these people are now for Trump. They are stupid ignorant types who have no idea what’s going on and are nothing but followers in the first place.

    If you take a look at this Constitution thing it gives lots of powers to the legislature that they apparently know nothing about. Like the power to declare war. When did they last do that? The responsibility to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, article one, section 8. So where does the President get to set tariffs and determine the economic agreements with other nations. I just mention these as examples.

    I think in the end – we are all screwed. The president has more or less declared war with Canada, Europe and Mexico. Where is the congress? Where are the people? The President is now off to make nice with North Korea.

    • nicky says:

      And Russia.

    • Mark R. says:

      He’s giving the Supreme Leader exactly what he wants- a seat at the table…legitimization. Past Presidents didn’t play the carrot/stick game; since he was building Nukes, they wouldn’t give him a carrot. Now that he’s got Nukes (and will never relinquish them) why is this meeting even important. Well, it gets Trump out of the G-7 climate change talks. For POTUS, it’s more important to make nice with a tyrant than seek solutions to a dying planet. Some say making nice might stop a nuclear war, but starting a nuclear war has never been NK’s intent. They just wanted/needed a very BIG deterrent. Now they have their deterrent AND their place at the table. Kim 1, Trump 0.

      • Mark R. says:

        It’s strange that I capitalized the noun ‘nukes’ twice…I guess it’s my German studies infiltrating me brain. 😉

      • Giuliani said Kim was begging for the meeting, but it’s the other way around. Trump is desperate for the photo op. It won’t even matter what happens – he know that his supporters will see the photo as a reason to laud him and vote for him again.

    • Congress (and the Senate) is pretty good at saying there are three co-equal branches of government when the majority are in the opposition party to the president. However, when they;re the same party, they become a rubber stamp no matter what that president does and appear to abdicate all responsibility.

      A prime minister has no more power than anyone else in a parliamentary system when it comes to voting. S/he is just first among equals.

      That reminds me – our unmarried, female, atheist (former Mormon), prime minister is due to give birth today. I should be keeping an eye on the news.

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