Donald Trump has called the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”.
But according to some in the White House, it’s something even worse: a conspiracy.
Top White House aides – including Mr Trump’s trusted adviser Steve Bannon – are increasingly worried that the so-called “deep state” is conspiring to bring the presidency down, sources tell Politico.
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) May 27, 2017
In the weeks after Mr Trump dismissed former FBI Director James Comey, the White House was hit with a series of damaging leaks, from Mr Trump alleged disclosure of highly classified intelligence to Russian officials, to his son-in-law’s reported attempt to set up back-channel communications with Russia.
The number of leaks coming from inside the government, sources say, have advisers concerned that someone is out to get them.
Commentators on Fox News, Mr Trump’s channel of choice, have helped push the idea that these leaks come from an American “deep state” – a body within the government working to bring down those in power.
Host Sean Hannity, for example, has condemned what he called “deep-state Obama-holdover government bureaucrats who are hell-bent on destroying this president”.
“It’s time for the Trump administration to begin to purge these saboteurs before it’s too late,” he said.
Breitbart News, the right-wing website previously run by Mr Bannon, has also advanced this theory, with headlines like “‘Deep State’ Suspected in EPA Press Release ‘Error’” and “The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight with Full Coverage”.
Meanwhile, Mr Bannon appears to be benefiting from the theory himself. Axios reports that the once-sidelined presidential adviser is now setting up a “wartime consigliere” for a battle against the “deep state,” media, Democrats and investigators.
Even former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has claimed there are “massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president”.
— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) May 26, 2017
Axios reports that Mr Trump’s team now have a “unified opponent” in the deep state, political opponents, and “people who just don’t want to give up their power”.
Mr Trump, however, has yet to push his adviser’s deep state narrative, focusing on his own favourite opponent: the media.
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” Mr Trump tweeted this weekend.
“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names, it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers,” he added.