Former U.S. President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower to meet with New York Attorney General Letitia James for a civil investigation on August 10, 2022 in New York City. (James Devaney/GC Images)
On Wednesday morning, moments before he arrived for a deposition at the New York attorney general’s office, former President Donald Trump boosted a baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI planted evidence at his Mar-a-Lago residence during a search on Monday. “The FBI and others from the Federal Government would not let anyone, including my lawyers, be anywhere near the areas that were rummaged and otherwise looked at during the raid on Mar-a-Lago,” Trump wrote in a post on his own Truth Social platform.
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“Everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone, without any witnesses to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, ‘planting.’ Why did they STRONGLY insist on having nobody watching them, everybody out? Obama and Clinton were never ‘raided,’ despite big disputes!”The FBI or the Department of Justice has yet to comment on the search, and as usual, Trump provided no evidence to back up these claims. However, this conspiracy has been percolating online since moments after Trump himself revealed the search had taken place. One of the earliest mentions of this conspiracy came from an anonymous right-wing Twitter troll account called Catturd, which describes itself as “the MAGA turd who talks shit.”“Does anyone have any doubt that corrupt Christopher Wray’s rotten FBI would plant evidence on Trump at the drop of a hat?” the account tweeted to its 800,000 followers just hours after the news broke about the FBI search.“I am pretty sure anything they found, they walked in with,” one of his followers replied almost immediately. Trump is aware of the account, having retweeted three of its posts back in December 2020, before he was banned from Twitter. Those posts were in support of another baseless Trump conspiracy, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
As the fallout from the raid saw MAGA world calling for civil war and the dismantling of the FBI, the idea that evidence was planted by the FBI during the search continued to gain traction, moving quickly from the usual conspiracy hotspots such as pro-Trump message boards and Telegram channels to Trump’s inner circle.On Tuesday, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort, it was pushed very publicly by Trump’s own attorneys.Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer and former reporter for conspiracy-peddling news station One America News, claimed that the FBI “precluded” her from watching the search, and she raised the notion of agents making up evidence. “At this point I don’t necessarily think they would go to the extent to plant information; they would just make stuff up and come up with whatever they want,” Bobb said during an appearance on Real America’s Voice.
Meanwhile, on Fox News, another Trump lawyer, Alina Habba, floated the very same idea. “Quite frankly I am concerned that they may have planted something,” she claimed, without any evidence to back up her allegation.
Later on Tuesday, during an appearance on the show of uber-conspiracist Alex Jones, Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon said that the search was in fact “a fishing expedition, or even, a planting expedition. I wouldn’t put it past them to have planted stuff.” Again, Bannon had no evidence to back up these claims, and went even further to claim the FBI action was part of a “deep state” plot to assassinate Trump.Back on Fox News, host Jesse Watters was not holding back, claiming—without proof, naturally—that we know the FBI “doctor evidence! We know they plant evidence!”
Appearing alongside Watters at the time was Senate Minority Leader and staunch Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham. But rather than defend the integrity of the country’s law enforcement agents, instead, the South Carolina senator just nodded along and said: “Sure.” Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.