THE PLUM LINE:
Today, the Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to release a report scrutinizing the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email arrangement. I’m going to predict that President Trump is going to lie about this report — a lot — as part of his broader ongoing campaign to delegitimize special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia’s sabotage of our election on his behalf.
But the nature of Trump’s lying in this particular case, I think, will command special attention, and it’s not clear that we in the news media are up to dealing with it. The most likely scenario is that Trump will tell a series of lies that aren’t merely dishonest in any conventional sense, but add up to a broader feat of gaslighting that is so spectacularly absurd and self-undermining that it will be hard to adequately convey to news consumers just how deeply saturated in bad faith it really is.
The report by the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is expected to be highly critical of the FBI’s treatment of the Clinton email investigation, with a focus on decisions made by former FBI director James B. Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe and former attorney general Loretta Lynch.
Today the New York Times previews Horowitz’s findings. Trump has been alleging that the FBI is actually a hotbed of pro-Clinton, anti-Trump sentiment. In Trump’s telling, the FBI corruptly cleared Clinton of criminality and launched an illegitimate investigation into Trump. (Horowitz is looking separately at the FBI’s treatment of Trump, and those results will come later.) The Times notes that Horowitz is unlikely to find evidence backing up Trump’s narrative, but Trump is likely to try to spin it his way, anyway:
The inspector general is unlikely to claim a wide-ranging political conspiracy at the heart of the F.B.I. There is evidence that at least some agents on the Clinton investigation disliked Mr. Trump. But look for Mr. Trump to seize on aspects of the report that support him, and probably discard those that do not. …
When the Russia investigation began, Mr. Comey made a decision that ultimately proved fateful. Rather than assign the case to agents in the field, he gave it to the same team at headquarters that had investigated Mrs. Clinton. So, any criticism of decisions in the Clinton case — no matter how unrelated to the Russia investigation — will ultimately be used by Mr. Trump challenge the integrity of the team that began investigating his campaign.
To grasp just how deeply preposterous this is, we need to return to the fact that Trump justified his firing of Comey by citing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s memo claiming that Comey had erred by treating Clinton unfairly. That memo highlighted Comey’s decision to hold a news conference in July 2016 at which he criticized Clinton, even though he recommended against charges, as a violation of protocol.