The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

GOP congressman offers strange Obama conspiracy theory — and even stranger explanations

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Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) took the White House's “deep state” conspiracy theory and added some mustard to it in a newly uncovered speech last week. Kelly said that not only is there a widespread government effort to undermine President Trump, but that it's being led by none other than former president Barack Obama — who is running a “shadow government.”

But while the conspiracy theory is strange enough, the explanations offered by Kelly's office are something to behold.

First, here's what Kelly said last Saturday at a local Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner:

President Obama himself said he was going to stay in Washington until his daughter graduated. I think we ought to pitch in to let him go someplace else, because he is only there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to run a shadow government that is going to totally upset the new agenda. It just doesn’t make sense. And people sit back and they say to me, 'My gosh, why can’t you guys get this done?' I say, 'We've got a new CEO, we've got some new heads in the different departments, but the same people are there, and they don't believe that the new owners or the new managers should be running the ship.'

Reached by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Kelly's office seemed to insist the comments were supposed to be private and that he was merely reflecting Republicans' frustration with the deep state. “Rep. Kelly delivered his remarks at a private meeting to an audience of fellow Republicans. He was sharing the frustration of everyone in the room over how they believe certain Obama administration holdovers within the federal bureaucracy are attempting to upset President Trump’s agenda.”

So apparently offering conspiracy theories about former presidents running “shadow governments” is okay if it's done behind closed doors and in the company of like-minded people.

Kelly's office then clarified to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he doesn't really think Obama is running a “shadow government” — or, at least, that Obama is “personally operating” it.

“Rep. Kelly does not believe that President Obama is personally operating a shadow government,” a spokesman said. “He does believe it would be helpful to the new administration if the former president would personally call for an end to all leaks and obstruction by personnel from his administration who currently serve in the executive branch.”

See: All Obama needs to do to halt these conspiracy theories about him running a shadow government is to denounce the leakers. It's really his fault.

And until then, apparently, members of Congress can be forgiven for spouting whatever strange things they want to fellow Republicans.