On Friday, the New York Times reported that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump was secretly working on behalf of the Russians.
Rightwing media personalities immediately began defending Trump and accusing the FBI of retaliating against Trump for his criticism of the FBI.
“[The FBI] might open an investigation into you without your knowledge into something appalling. Maybe it’s beating your wife, maybe it’s dealing fentanyl to kids, maybe it’s betraying your country in some alliance with Vladimir Putin,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson Friday. “You don’t need to have done it. But once they investigate you, they can always leak two years later that they were investigating you for this crime that you didn’t commit or at least they found no evidence you committed.”
MSNBC’s Brian Williams discussed the development with a panel that included former FBI counterterrorism boss Frank Figliuzzi.
“My first response when I saw this reporting was I wish it hadn’t happened, to be honest with you,” Figliuzzi said. “And I’m a huge champion of freedom of the press… But I also know that we have a president that is mercurial at best, and I’m concerned that he’s going to react in a way to this—we’ve already seen some communication from the White House tonight—that causes him to act out again special counsel Mueller, and/or Rod Rosenstein.”
Figliuzzi said the other thing he’s been hearing is rightwingers talking about the “deep state” that is out to get Trump.
“I’ve been hearing that there was a conspiracy somehow, that there was a rogue FBI,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to understand that intelligence and counterintelligence work in the FBI is by far the most regulated part of the FBI.”
Figliuzzi said it’s “wholly unrealistic” to believe anyone in the FBI was plotting against Trump.
“You’ve got to keep the rule book in your top drawer,” he said. “I lived as counterintelligence agent with the attorney general guidelines in the top drawer of my desk and referred to them daily until I’d memorized entire portions of them. That’s how heavily regulated this is.”
“Any notion that some rogue agent could open a counterintelligence investigation against the president of the United States is just—misguided,” he said. “The number of lawyers that would have had to touch this and allowed it to happen is almost immeasurable.”