As Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on President Trump, Mueller is waging “an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
“The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.
“The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. The bureau is taking steps to protect other live investigations that the person has worked on and trying to lessen any danger to associates if the informant’s identity becomes known, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations.”
This was the Post’s attempt to respond to a New York Times story headlined “Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation,” which suggested, in anodyne terms, that U.S. officials had embedded a spy within the Trump campaign.
Starting in the spring of 2016, when it became apparent Trump would be the Republican nominee for president, the FBI “investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in those early months, congressional investigators revealed in February,” the Times reported. “The four men were Michael T. Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Mr. [George] Papadopoulos, current and former officials said.”
This “is a stunning admission for those Americans worried that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies might use their powers to surveil, leak against and target Americans simply for their political views or affiliations, wrote Molly Hemingway at The Federalist.
Hemingway quoted reporter Sean Davis as writing: “The most amazing aspect about this article [in the New York Times] is how blasé it is about the fact that the Obama admin was actively spying on four affiliates of a rival political campaign weeks before an election.”
Officials are “terrified” about the “looming inspector general report,” Hemingway said, and the mainstream media spin machine has moved into action.
“Trump, allies mark anniversary of Mueller probe by claiming FBI ‘spied’ ln his campaign,” the Chicago Tribune wrote in a headline, insinuating the claim came simply from a year having passed.
“Trump: Justice Dept. put a ‘spy’ in campaign to ‘frame’ him,” NBC News wrote in a headline.
“Trump promotes claim of a ‘spy’ in the campaign, that DOJ is “out to frame” him,” read the CBS headline.
“President Trump tweeted about a ‘spy in the Trump Campaign’ early Friday morning, citing a claim made by a Fox Business Network host,” wrote CBS, apparently unaware the claim comes from a New York Times story. “It marks the second time in two days that Mr. Trump has suggested federal law enforcement might have placed a spy on his presidential campaign.”
Even as Trump moved closer to a direct quote from the Times story, CBS seemed to not acknowledge the story or the fallout to come.
“The president continued with that sentiment in a tweet later Friday morning, saying ‘reports’ indicate there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,’” CBS stated.
As for where Trump may have gotten these ideas, CBS wrote: “The National Review article cites work by Rep. Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter and head of the House intelligence committee, who has demanded information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation.”
If Trump claims he has been spied on — even if based on an FBI report and a New York Times article — it’s to hurt the credibility of the Mueller investigation and not because, as seems increasingly probable, he was spied on. And if Nunes wants to talk to a key witness, it’s up to the Department of Justice to say no to protect sources.