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Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the President tweeted that "SPYGATE is in full force," referencing December 2015 texts from former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page allegedly about a "counter-intelligence operation into the Trump Campaign," despite former FBI Director James Comey's assertion that the FBI's Russia investigation did not begin until July 2016.

Where it came from: A single tweet from an anonymous Twitter account promoting the allegation made its way through Reddit's conspiracy board to a far-right website known for spreading false stories — ultimately gaining the attention of mainstream conservative pundits before landing in a presidential tweet.

The timeline

June 4, 12:22 pm: The theory first appeared on an anonymous right-wing Twitter account, which drew attention to the fact that one word — "lures" — had been previously redacted from released texts between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The author claimed this as evidence that proved there were multiple spies planted in the Trump campaign at the end of 2015.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Yes, but: The texts make no mention of Trump or his campaign — plus, these "BOMBSHELL" documents were released by a Senate committee back in February. (The text in question was redacted on page 30 of the Senate document dump but left unredacted on page 159.) And, as the left-leaning news site ThinkProgress pointed out, in government parlance, a “lure" is an individual who attracts a someone from a foreign country to the U.S. so that they can be arrested.

Later that day, Gateway Pundit — a far-right, pro-Trump website known for often promoting thinly-sourced and false stories — posted its own story based on the tweet. At the same time, the image from the tweet made its way to r/conspiracy, Reddit's conspiracy forum.

June 5, 7:22 p.m.

Fox Business pundit Lou Dobbs, who, according to The Daily Beast, Trump places on speakerphone during Oval Office meetings, made reference to the allegations set forth in the initial tweet, linking directly to the Senate's February document dump.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

8:37 p.m.: About an hour after Dobbs' tweet, Trump tweeted the allegations himself.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

10:07 p.m.: Fox News' Laura Ingraham brings up the allegations on "The Ingraham Angle," falsely asserting that the documents had been released by the Senate earlier that day. Her guest, Rep. Ron DeSantis responded that the FBI's official timeline for the investigation is "clearly...not true."

Other false stories pushed by The Gateway Pundit, per The Washington Post:

What we do know about the FBI's investigation:

  • The FBI began the investigation into the Trump campaign after the Australian government tipped them off in mid-2016 to the fact that George Papadopoulos had told a top Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to The New York Times.
  • James Comey confirmed that the investigation began in late July 2016 in his testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee in March last year.
  • President Trump's claims that the FBI placed "spies" in his campaign have not been verified — and top Republicans Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy both have dismissed Trump's allegations.

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Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Twitter sues Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Twitter on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), saying that his office launched an investigation into the social media giant because it banned former President Trump from its platform.

Driving the news: Twitter is seeking to halt an investigation launched by Paxton into moderation practices by Big Tech firms including Twitter for what he called "the seemingly coordinated de-platforming of the President," days after they banned him following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.