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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