A few questions about the FBI's don't-call-it-spying on the Trump campaign

First: Were any other entrapping approaches made to Trump campaign officials, and by whom? Throughout this controversy, running in parallel to the Steele/MSNBC theory of Trump-Putin conspiracy, there has been another conspiratorial reading of events, which alleges a pattern of outreach to the Trump campaign by intelligence-community and Clintonworld affiliates masquerading as Russian envoys. “Taken together,” wrote Lee Smith last summer, “these efforts could be interpreted not as an investigation but a sting operation intended to dirty a presidential campaign.”

I’m generally as skeptical of this counterconspiracy theory as of the maximalist collusion case. But it would be helpful to know more about some of the ambiguous characters involved. For instance, was Stefan Halper, the Cambridge academic used by the F.B.I. as a confidential informant, doing any outreach to Trumpworld before the F.B.I. investigation formally began, as the counter-conspiracists suggest? And what actually became of Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious Maltese professor whose meetings with Papadopoulos, in which Mifsud claimed to have high-level contacts in Russia, set in motion events leading to the F.B.I. opening its case? The counter-conspiracists suspect Mifsud of being connected to Western intelligence rather than the Kremlin, but nobody can ask him because he has simply disappeared.

Maybe more information on these points would just put the counter-conspiracy to bed. But if so that would be as welcome, and worth having, as Mueller’s “no proof of conspiracy” conclusion.

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