Trump and his GOP allies may think they scored a victory with the firing of FBI Agent Peter Strzok, but the real winner is Russia.
But while Trump, congressional Republicans, and right-wing media were celebrating the firing of a 22-year veteran of the FBI, it was Russia that scored the biggest victory on Monday.
By Monday evening, Russia's propaganda machine had kicked into full gear and was parroting the right-wing narrative about Strzok's firing, which conveniently aligns with the Kremlin's years-long smear campaign aimed at undermining the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community.
Trump, of course, had just touted Strzok's firing on Twitter, using the occasion to undermine the credibility of the FBI, the DOJ, and the Russia probe ("Witch Hunt ... total Hoax"), as well as the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server ("Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation").
"Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI - finally. The list of bad players in the FBI & DOJ gets longer & longer," Trump tweeted. "Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped? It is a total Hoax. No Collusion, No Obstruction - I just fight back!"
He followed up with a second tweet, writing, "Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!"
This came just days after Trump questioned whether the FBI would "ever recover" from its "badly damaged" reputation — failing to mention, of course, that he is the one who has damaged the FBI's reputation more than anyone else.
Trump's Republican allies also chimed in on Monday, using Strzok's firing as "proof" of rampant corruption at the FBI, while right-wing media pundits hailed his firing a "body blow" to the entire Russia probe, calling for the investigation to be shut down and even urging for the former FBI agent to be criminally investigated.
But Trump and his allies in Congress and right-wing media weren't the only ones celebrating.
According to Securing Democracy's Hamilton 68 Dashboard, which tracks the activity of 600 Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, keywords related to Strzok's firing made up six to eight of the top 10 trending topics on Monday evening, and two of the top 10 trending hashtags.
Of the top 10 URL's shared by accounts linked to Russian influence operations, three were links to articles about Strzok's firing.
Meanwhile, articles about Strzok being fired were front page news on Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik. Both platforms used the news about Strzok to call into question the credibility of the Russia investigation, and the FBI more broadly.
U.S. intelligence agencies like the FBI are powerful institutions that play an integral role in uncovering wrongdoing, both inside and outside of the U.S. government. This is why Trump attacks them.
This is also why Russia attacks U.S. intelligence agencies — and why Russian officials are so thrilled when Trump and his allies do the work for them.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.