During a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-IN) compared the FBI’s treatment of President Trump with how the bureau under J. Edgar Hoover mistreated Martin Luther King Jr.
“Look, the types of things that we’re hearing about now — it was wrong when they did it to Martin Luther King, and it’s wrong if they do it to the Trump campaign,” Wenstrup said. “And we have the responsibility and the authority to have oversight over these things, and the American public are starting to get it, and they’re tired of the stalling and the excuses coming from the Department of Justice and the FBI, and frankly so are we.”
Wenstrup’s comparison makes little sense. The FBI harassed King and went as far as to send him a letter suggesting he should kill himself — actions former FBI director James Comey has characterized as “shameful.” Meanwhile, there is no indication that the FBI engaged in any improper conduct during their investigation into the Trump campaign. Nonetheless, House Republicans like Wenstrup have seized upon reports that an FBI informant spoke with Trump campaign officials who were already under scrutiny because of their suspicious contacts with Russia to renew their case that Trump is a victim.
Trump himself has amplified these concerns, tweeting on Sunday that he demands “the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
But we’ve known for months that the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign began with then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos drunkenly bragging to an Australian diplomat about his knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails stolen from Democratic targets. Republicans, however, are using Trump’s tweet to call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate “the progress of the Trump-Russia investigation from its origins,” as Fox News puts it.
The effort has the support of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who went on Fox News on Monday and responded to Trump’s tweet by saying, “it will not be enough to have [deputy attorney general] Rod Rosenstein and others at the Department of Justice investigate themselves… more almost than anything else we’ve discussed in the past, this is a basis to appoint a second special counsel, someone who is independent.”
But at other points in the interview, Gaetz had a hard time explaining how it’s plausible to believe that a DOJ filled with Republican officials who were hand-picked by Trump could have it out for the president.
Asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Gaetz said “it’s like over at the Department of Justice he’s got Stockholm syndrome, he’s become sympathetic with his captors over in the deep state.” The interview closed with host Harris Faulkner inadvertently exposing this conspiracy theory, noting that “the American people are looking at this and wondering, ‘Republicans, Republicans, both in the DOJ & House Intel — why can’t they work it out?'”
GAETZ hits SESSIONS over his refusal to un-recuse from Russia probe: "It's like over at the Department of Justice he's got Stockholm syndrome, he's become sympathetic with his captors over in the deep state." pic.twitter.com/NYkwpU4vhw
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 21, 2018
Republicans have been unable to square their conspiracy theory about the FBI scheming against Trump during the campaign with the reality that the FBI said nothing about the active investigation into the Trump campaign until after the 2016 election was over. On the other hand, the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails was publicized on two key occasions by then-FBI Director James Comey. 538’s Nate Silver has argued Comey’s actions swung the election for Trump.
Fox News reports that on Tuesday, “a group of congressional Republicans plans to introduce a resolution Tuesday calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate alleged misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department.” But armed with no evidence that misconduct actually occurred, the goal of their effort seems to be to muddy the waters of Mueller’s investigation.
Wenstrup has a history of offering completely incoherent defenses of Trump. During a Fox News interview in March, he argued that there is no further need to investigate the Trump campaign, because while top White House aide Hope Hicks may have admitted to lying on behalf of Trump during sworn testimony, all she copped to were “white lies.”
In the next breath, Wenstrup called for more scrutiny on leakers, like whoever informed the press about Hicks’ testimony.