Spy, Spying, #SPYGATE: Trump spies opportunity to 'brand' FBI informant

President Trump reportedly told a friend this week that he wanted to “brand” the FBI informant who met with members of his presidential campaign as a “spy” because he believed the term would stick. On Thursday morning, Trump used the term three times in a single tweet while repeating his false claim that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had conceded the bureau was spying on his campaign in 2016.

“Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign,” Trump tweeted. “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!”

His next tweet included the hashtag “#SPYGATE.”

On ABC’s “The View” Tuesday, Clapper was asked whether the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign.

“No, they were not,” Clapper replied. “They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence — which is what they do.”

Last week, the New York Times reported that in the summer of 2016, the FBI dispatched an informant to talk to two Trump campaign advisers — George Papadopoulos and Carter Page — after the agency “received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.”

According to the Associated Press, Trump “told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement has conspired against him.” And Trump “told one ally this week that he wanted ‘to brand’ the informant a ‘spy,’ believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.”

President Trump has chosen to “brand” his latest conspiratorial claims. (Photo illustration by Yahoo News; photos: AP (2), Getty Images)
President Trump has chosen to “brand” his latest conspiratorial claims. (Photo illustration by Yahoo News; photos: AP (2), Getty Images)

The president first used the term “spy” while quoting the chyron of a Fox News segment.

“Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’” Trump tweeted on May 17.

During a Sunday morning tweetstorm, Trump called for a federal probe “into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

But by midweek, Trump seemed ready to launch his “SPY” brand, stamping “SPYGATE” on his conspiratorial claims.

“A lot of bad things have happened,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn on Wednesday. “We now call it ‘Spygate.’ You’re calling it ’Spygate.’”

On Thursday, the president even added the hashtag to his routine while chastising former FBI Director James Comey and ex-acting FBI head Andrew McCabe.

“Not surprisingly, the GREAT Men & Women of the FBI are starting to speak out against Comey, McCabe and all of the political corruption and poor leadership found within the top ranks of the FBI,” Trump tweeted. “Comey was a terrible and corrupt leader who inflicted great pain on the FBI! #SPYGATE.”

Comey, for his part, pushed back on Trump’s description of the informant as a “spy.”

“Facts matter,” Comey tweeted on Wednesday. “The FBI’s use of Confidential Human Sources (the actual term) is tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country. Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country. How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?”

Trump responded to Comey’s comments in an interview that aired Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”

“How is he going to explain to his grandchildren all of the lies, the deceit, all of the problems he has caused for this country?” Trump said. “I think of the things that I’ve done for the country, the firing of James Comey is going to go down as a very good thing. The FBI is great. I know so many people in the FBI. The FBI is a fantastic institution, but some of the people at the top were rotten apples. James Comey was one of them.”

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