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Trump invented a fake spy scandal. People will still believe it.

It’s a tactic the president has used before, and it works.

Madeline Marshall/Vox

President Donald Trump has created another fake scandal, and if it’s anything like his previous ones, people will still believe it.

Trump calls it “Spygate,” and pushes the narrative that President Barack Obama planted a spy in his campaign to help Hillary Clinton win. It’s just not true.

What actually happened? In July 2016, the FBI asked an informant to speak with two of Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisers who had contact with Russians to try to understand what Russia was doing. You can read more details in our explainer, but there’s zero evidence it was for any political purpose.

Trump has done this before.

Like when he said Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the election. It began on Twitter and was officially reinforced by the White House, and even though it was completely untrue, polling shows a majority of Republicans still believe it.

The FBI is one of Trump’s favorite Twitter targets. The attacks he has made in his first year in office have already eroded the public’s trust of the intelligence agency. Seventy-four percent of Trump voters already believed the FBI was biased against him before Trump invented “Spygate.”

If he can create public distrust in the FBI — and, by extension, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia — he may be able to survive whatever that investigation finds.

“It is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach [or] not impeach,” Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN. “Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So our jury is the American — as it should be — is the American people.”

And a significant number of the American people are going to believe in “Spygate.”

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