Republicans Are Obsessed With a Conspiracy Theory

Republicans and right-wing news organizations are demonstrating what happens when you become obsessed with a conspiracy theory. The one so many of them have swallowed lately is that the FBI was deeply politicized during the Obama presidency, which explains why they didn’t go after Hillary Clinton as well as why they are engaged in a “witch hunt” against Donald Trump.

Accepting things like that at face value for purely partisan political purposes means that you see “secret societies” plotting against your leader, when it was all just a joke. Now a lot of the same people are making a similar error. Here’s Fox News this morning on the latest release of texts between FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok:

Page wrote to Strzok on Sept. 2, 2016, about prepping Comey because “potus wants to know everything we’re doing.” According to a newly released Senate report, this text raises questions about Obama’s personal involvement in the Clinton email investigation.

That idea is spinning all over right wing media today after being articulated by Sen. Ron Johnson (who should have learned something last time). Of course, the president weighed in.

These people are jumping to conclusions based on their belief in a conspiracy theory when a simple look at a few facts would have debunked the whole thing.

The first thing they should have noticed is that on September 2, 2016, the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails was not active.

FBI Director James Comey closed the Clinton email investigation on July 5, 2016. It was not reopened until October. The same trove of text messages released Tuesday reveals that the FBI did not even become aware of additional emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop until September 28, 2016.

To my knowledge, it has never been reported that Lisa Page was in any way involved in the Clinton investigation, even when it was active. She did participate later on Muellers investigative team, probably because of this expertise:

Page has prosecuted a number cases involving eastern European organized crime. In one case, she partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, which investigated a money-laundering case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s one-time business partner, Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch.

What might have occurred to someone not obsessed with conspiracy theories would have been to wonder what it was the FBI was working on in early September that would have been important to keep Obama appraised of. As we learned from the Washington Post last June, the president had been presented with a highly classified envelope in August.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

Here’s what happened over the next month:

Brennan convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.

The unit functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community. Those brought in signed new non-disclosure agreements to be granted access to intelligence from all three participating agencies.

They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.

It is surely the case that Page was involved in prepping Comey because POTUS wanted to know everything this group was doing. That would be particularly true on September 2nd, three days before Obama confronted Putin for the first time at the G-20 meeting about Russian interference in the election.

These are the kinds of things that a cursory glance at facts and context would have produced, but were ignored in order to twist a single text into the service of a conspiracy theory. I can think of no better example of what currently ails the Republicans and right-wing media.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.