On Thursday morning, President Trump tweeted that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign.”
“Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal,” Trump wrote. “Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!”
Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
Trump’s tweet is a blatant lie. Clapper has not admitted anything of the sort. In fact, he has repeatedly said the opposite.
Consider what Clapper said on The View this Tuesday.
“So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?” host Joy Behar asked Clapper.
“No, they were not,” Clapper replied, before explaining that the contact an FBI informant had with Trump campaign officials, whose suspicious ties with Russia were already known, was part of a counter-intelligence investigation into the Kremlin.
Trump’s Thursday tweet marked the third time in just over 24 hours that he lied about Clapper. He first did so in a tweet posted Wednesday morning in which he fabricated what Clapper said during his appearance on The View in order to make it sound like Clapper admitted spying occurred.
Then, during a question-and-answer session with reporters a couple hours later, Trump falsely claimed that “if you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday, inadvertently.”
Later Wednesday evening, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a close adviser to Trump, amplified the president’s lie. His viewers were show were shown a graphic claiming that Clapper is “PROUD OF SPYING,” and Hannity played the clip of Trump mischaracterizing Clapper’s comments without correcting the record about what Clapper said
“This is the biggest abuse of power, corruption scandal in the country’s history,” Hannity said. “It shows you just how pretentious, how egotistic people like Comey and Clapper really are. Now, they don’t see that the crossfire hurricane — well, it’s now coming their way. The wind has shifted direction. And like we have been warning, they both have the right to remain silent.”
While Trump and his allies blatantly lie about what Clapper said, his Republican allies in Congress play along, refusing to correct the record.
Speaker Ryan would not say if he believes there were spies in Trump’s campaign when CNN's @mkraju asked if it’s appropriate for Trump to float the notion a spy was implanted in the campaign and it could be the biggest scandal in history – without any evidence.
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) May 24, 2018
The episode illustrates how Trump and his allies launder lies to manipulate the news cycle for their purposes. It begin with Trump, goes to Fox News and then is accepted by the Republican establishment.