President Trump is fond of the term "witch hunt" to describe the investigation into possible campaign collusion with the Russians. On Wednesday, he added a new term to the mix: spygate. As in, "SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!" he tweeted, referring to the FBI's use of an informant who made contact with Trump campaign officials. The president also complained about a "Criminal Deep State" that set out to get him but is now mired "in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may have never seen before!" Related developments, including the views of some who think Trump is overstating the facts to deflect from the Robert Mueller investigation:
- Trump deflecting? The "spygate" tweet shows that Trump is "concocting crazy conspiracy theories" to try to discredit the Mueller investigation as it closes in on him, writes Greg Sargent in the Washington Post. Another critic, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine, runs through the particulars of the spy theory—"that the FBI, working on orders from the Obama administration, implanted a spy into the Trump campaign in order to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign"—and finds it to be "completely insane."
- Nope, says Trump: In comments to reporters Wednesday, Trump denied that he was trying to undermine Mueller with his new allegations. “We’re not undercutting. We’re cleaning everything up,” Trump said, per Politico.
- Comey's question: The former FBI chief defended the agency's use of an informant, reports the Hill. "The FBI’s use of Confidential Human Sources (the actual term) is tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country," he tweeted. "Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country. How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?"
- Comey vs. Trump: Comey warned that it's a "dangerous time when our country is led by those who will lie about anything," while Trump declared Wednesday that "I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey."
- On Thursday: FBI chief Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, and the Justice Department's Edward O'Callaghan will have a classified briefing Thursday about all of the above with House Republicans Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy. On Wednesday, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi called for Democrats to be included, reports CNBC.
- Options for Mueller: Reporter Michael Schmidt explains in a New York Times video how Mueller's investigation might play out. If, for example, he finds that Trump broke the law, the most aggressive of three options would be to try to indict the president. If Mueller's overseer, the Justice Department's Rod Rosenstein, disagrees with the move, that would automatically trigger a report to the Congress, and Rosenstein would have to explain his decision.
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