It's something Trump has said would be "bigger than Watergate" and the "all time biggest political scandal" ever if it pans out to be true. What he's referring to: a report in the New York Times this week that the FBI planted an informant to spy on his campaign during the 2016 election. Politico notes the president and his allies are now using this report to sow doubt about the validity of Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the election, as well as possible ties between Russia and Trump associates. "This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn't commit," Trump quote-tweeted Fox Business Network anchor David Asman Friday morning. "Really bad stuff!" he added as his own take. More from around the internet:
- The original Times story notes that current and former FBI officials have said "at least one government informant" met up multiple times with Trump associates Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, which has led some in Trump's camp to cry attempted entrapment. Still, sources in the DOJ and FBI say agents weren't nearly as aggressive as they could have been. The article also notes the Russia investigation's initial code name: Crossfire Hurricane, taken from the lyrics of the Rolling Stones song "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
- Earlier this month, the Washington Post noted a "rare moment of alignment" between Trump and the Justice Department he's been battling with: an agreement not to turn over sensitive DOJ info to House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes for fear of outing a "top-secret intelligence source" and putting lives at risk. Now that it's been revealed that source spilled info to Robert Mueller, some administration officials fear Trump may soon reverse course and give Nunes what he wants.
- Another story out of the Post relays the damage control the FBI is now taking to protect the source if his or her identity is revealed. Sources say that includes protecting other live cases the source has been working on, as well as trying to set up protections for associates who may be at risk if the source is outed.
- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani seemed to hedge a bit on these claims during a CNN appearance Friday morning. The former NYC mayor told Chris Cuomo on New Day that "first of all, I don't know for sure, nor does the President, if there really was [an informant]. We're told that." He said Trump was told there were "two embedded people in the campaign," and that the Times article "corroborates what people told us off the record," but "you don't know if they're right or not."
- In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Kimberley Strassel wonders if the Trump campaign was "set up"—echoing comments made earlier this week by Nunes—and if so, how early on. Strassel argues that there were two forces working against Trump: a political one driven by Hillary Clinton's campaign, Obama officials, and Fusion GPS, as well as a law enforcement one led by the FBI. What Strassel wants to know is exactly when "these strands intersected."
- Jonathan Chait takes on Strassel's argument that anti-Trump forces were working together to "gin up a fatal October surprise" for Trump. "Except there’s one tiny flaw in this theory: They never sprang the October surprise," Chait writes for the Daily Intelligencer. Before the election, both the FBI and Obama administration "kept a tight lid" on any intel on Trump's campaign they'd thus far gained. "When voting took place in November 2016, as far as the public was concerned, Clinton had been under FBI investigation and Trump had not," Chait writes.
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