When President Trump tweeted in March 2017 that the Obama administration "had his wires tapped" during the 2016 presidential campaign, he wasn't entirely wrong.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Earlier this week the New York Times published a story revealing the FBI was not only spying on the Trump campaign, but had at least one FBI informant embedded within it. Further, the piece reveals the FBI didn't have enough evidence to open a criminal investigation into members of the Trump campaign, so a counterintelligence investigation was launched instead.
Counterintelligence investigations can take years, but if the Russian government had influence over the Trump campaign, the F.B.I. wanted to know quickly. One option was the most direct: interview the campaign officials about their Russian contacts.
That was discussed but not acted on, two former officials said, because interviewing witnesses or subpoenaing documents might thrust the investigation into public view, exactly what F.B.I. officials were trying to avoid during the heat of the presidential race.
They said that anything the F.B.I. did publicly would only give fodder to Mr. Trump’s claims on the campaign trail that the election was rigged.
The F.B.I. obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said. That has become a politically contentious point, with Mr. Trump’s allies questioning whether the F.B.I. was spying on the Trump campaign or trying to entrap campaign officials.
The Washington Post has published a similar story:
Yet again, FBI/DOJ leaks clues about a top secret source for an article that is about how FBI/DOJ really wants to protect this source's identity. Congress does not have this level of insight into the source. This is third major FBI/DOJ leak on this. https://t.co/weplhkKvBF pic.twitter.com/Yg3Ug7HhG1— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) May 18, 2018
The story came just days ahead of the expected release of a Department of Justice Inspector General report about how the FBI handled the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information on her personal email server. Those who have followed the FBI saga closely have a theory about the timing and a new narrative:
3. In self-serving desire to get a sympathetic story about its actions, DOJ/FBI leakers are willing to provide yet more details about that "top secret" source (namely, that spying was aimed at Page/Papadopoulos)--making all more likely/certain source will be outed. That's on them— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) May 17, 2018
It’s not just that DOJ would push this narrative but that reporters would be so unintelligent in carrying that water for them... https://t.co/JvTP3QBgcm— Mollie (@MZHemingway) May 18, 2018
The only people sharing sensitive details about the source with reporters are DOJ and intel officials. It’s like watching the boy who cried wolf demand to know how people came to believe a wolf was nearby. https://t.co/ZprLE4xu4I— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) May 18, 2018