By Frank Bowman
There is a certain twisted brilliance in the media strategies of Mr. Trump and his enablers. By constant repetition, they’ve managed to inject into the daily national narrative an absolutely nonsensical, but deeply subversive, idea. In the Trumpian universe, the fact that, before the 2016 election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating reports of foreign efforts to influence the election, perhaps in cooperation with the Trump campaign, is cause for concern, not about the foreigners or the Trump campaign, but about the FBI.
In Trump World, America’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies are apparently supposed to ignore reports of foreign efforts to influence elections and penetrate a presidential campaign. In Trump World, the ever-growing mountain of evidence that the Trump family and its retainers were having highly unusual contacts with Russians (and now, it appears, Saudis and Emiratis) is simply brushed aside with the mantras “no collusion” and “witch hunt.” In Trump World, we reason backwards. Rather than examining evidence to determine whether anyone in Trump’s sphere did wrong, we must assume that Trump and all around him are blameless, and therefore we must conclude that anyone who inquires into the possibility that wrong was done must be a member of the nefarious deep state. In Trump World, to oppose, or even to question, Trump is to be a traitor.
Back in the real world, the idea that the FBI is, or ever was, controlled by a nest of secret liberals hostile to Republican presidential candidates is comical. The Bureau is, and always has been, deeply conservative. Moreover, although somehow this fact no longer seems to matter, during 2016, the FBI was headed by James Comey, a staunchly orthodox Republican famous for his prickly sense of rectitude and willingness to resist political pressure who had served in high Justice Department positions in Republican administrations. Still more to the point, whatever the FBI may have discovered about Trump during 2016, it kept entirely secret. As did the Obama appointees who ran the Justice Department. And therefore, nothing the FBI learned damaged the Trump campaign. Which, of course, was in marked contrast to how the unproductive investigation of Hillary Clinton was treated.
So we know that the FBI conducted investigations of both presidential candidates and behaved in a way that hurt one candidate (Clinton) by publicly smearing her reputation without actually charging her with a crime, while helping the other candidate (Trump) by keeping its investigation of him completely secret.
Thus, here in the real world, using normal logic, we would look at the evidence of the FBI’s behavior and conclude one of two things: Either the FBI consciously set out to hurt Clinton and help Trump, or (and this is Jim Comey’s story) it was not trying to help or hurt either candidate, but made errors that happened to help Trump and hurt Clinton.
The one thing that no one using real world logic would deduce from the evidence is that in 2016 the FBI was engaged in a plot to harm the candidacy of Donald Trump. What it was doing when it investigated Trump’s connections with Russia was its job — trying to protect the United States from foreign efforts to subvert the government and the democratic process.
That Mr. Trump would try to turn this reality on its head is unsurprising. That Republican elected officials and once-respectable institutions of American journalism like the Wall Street Journal would abet him in his distortions is despicable, and a shame none them should ever be able to wash away.