The Atlantic

The Epistemic Quandary of the FBI and Trump

The claims that Trump and his allies make about the FBI’s history of political retaliation, however cynically lodged, ring uncomfortably true.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

The ongoing story of Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as whether the Trump campaign colluded, seems almost too wild to believe. A foreign power, using low-tech and often laughably simplistic techniques, apparently managed to meddle with the American electorate, even organizing real-life rallies. Meanwhile, members of the Trump campaign surreptitiously tried to work with them, as revealed by a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and a guilty plea from George Papadapoulos. So, later, did National-Security Adviser-designate Michael Flynn.

The implausibility of this turn of events has left room for an unusual coalition to attack and question the official story. For the most part, this includes President Trump himself, Republican lawmakers aligned with him, and conservative media, but it also includes (for example) the left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald. Their critique is built, with a range of sincerity, on an argument about the FBI being untrustworthy, scheming, and prone to exacting revenge on political opponents. The critique draws its force from the fact that this has, in fact, historically been true of the Bureau—yet many of its proponents have clearly dubious

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