Donald Trump still calls Russia probe a 'hoax' and 'witch hunt.' It wasn’t: journalist

Donald Trump still calls Russia probe a 'hoax' and 'witch hunt.' It wasn’t: journalist

Many critics of former President Donald Trump and his supporters in right-wing media have accused them of being redundant, arguing that they grow tiresome by repeating the same phrases and talking points over and over. But Trump’s use of repetition serves a purpose for him politically; he will plant a seed and keep reinforcing it. And one example is the “hoax” or “witch hunt” theme that he has been using since 2017.

Trump has used that type of messaging with everything from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to the Ukraine scandal — which led to his first impeachment in 2019 — to the January 6 select committee. Now, Trump is using that playbook again following the FBI’s August 8 execution of a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, in an article published on August 17, takes a look at Trump’s repeated use of the terms “hoax” and “witch hunt” — stressing that his strategy, although deceptive and misleading, is effective.

READ MORE: The FBI's Mar-a-Lago search was Donald Trump's 'Al Capone moment'

“One of the most useful things to remember about Donald Trump’s claims that the investigation into 2016 Russian interference was a politically motivated smear campaign is that his complaints about it began before we even knew much of anything about what had happened,” Bump explains. “The first time he called the Russia investigation a ‘hoax’ was in March 2017, at which point, his argument against it was, predictably, that Hillary Clinton’s ties to Russia were much closer. He first dubbed it a ‘witch hunt’ 10 days before he was even inaugurated.”

Bump continues, “Every rationalization that’s emerged since to cast the probe as biased or contrived or dishonest came only after Trump had begun declaring it to be precisely that. This could have been just another component of Trump’s well-documented dishonesty, a particularly durable example of his saying something untrue repeatedly. But the idea that the Russia investigation was a ‘hoax’ has endured — and has become a sort of Ground Zero for claims that federal law enforcement is out to get Trump.”

When FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8, they were, according to the Post, searching for classified documents — including some that were "relating to nuclear weapons.” And Trump’s defenders have been using the “Russia hoax” theme in the hope of discrediting the investigation.

“In the week since Trump’s estate at Mar-a-Lago was searched by the FBI as part of a probe into his retention of government documents, this assertion that the Russia investigation was a hoax has emerged repeatedly, including from Trump,” Bump observes. “Because so many of his supporters believe, incorrectly, that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts was somehow thoroughly debunked, they are ready to believe that the new probe is similarly artificial. So, it’s worth pointing out that, in fact, the Russia probe was neither a hoax nor debunked — and allow people to draw their own conclusions about the new investigation as a result.”

READ MORE: 'Un-American': GOP lawmakers lash out after FBI searches Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate

Bump points out that it has been “well-established” that during the 2016 presidential election, the Russian government was “demonstrably trying to intervene” and was “doing things that seemed to aid Trump.” In the Mueller Report, Mueller concluded that the 2016 Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians did not rise to the level of a full-fledged criminal conspiracy. But that doesn’t mean that the Russia probe itself was a “hoax” or that the Russian government didn’t interfere in that election — or that Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t believe that Trump would be more favorable to him than Hillary Clinton.

“What the (Mueller) Report showed was a robust web of ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian actors, from a meeting at Trump Tower to (Paul) Manafort’s sharing of internal polling data with someone believed to be linked to Russian intelligence,” Bump writes. “A report released in August 2020 by a bipartisan Senate committee clarified and extended those links. This is not to say that anyone proved that Trump or even Trump’s senior team colluded directly with Russia as it tried to aid his campaign. It is, instead, to say that none of this was a hoax, that there was good reason for the FBI to be suspicious and that there was good reason to open an investigation that’s unaffected by the claims Trump later raised.”

READ MORE: 'A bold step': George Conway explains why Trump 'should be worried' following Mar-a-Lago FBI search

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