An explosive allegation by Donald trump, as yet not fully substantiated, that the Obama administration tried and ultimately succeeded in wiretapping the campaign offices at Trump Tower has created chaos in Washington.
On the left, the Democrats are apoplectic, scrambling to suggest that the Trump claims are without merit and that there is no evidence to support them. It's amusing to see the same people who want resignations and independent investigations because of contact with Russian entities but no evidence of wrong-doing, now take exactly the opposite position in a situation in which there is some evidence to indicate suspicious actions (see below). It's even more amusing to watch the media hamsters falling over themselves to protect the past president. John Hinderacker
reports on the AP response:
After President Trump accused Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones during the election campaign, the Associated Press hurried into print a defense of the former president:
President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of having Trump Tower telephones “wire tapped” during last year’s election, a claim that an Obama spokesman said was false.
Trump did not offer any evidence or details, or say what prompted him to make the allegation.
No one fits a lot of details into a tweet, but there is no doubt that Obama’s Justice Department–the most corrupt and politicized Department of Justice in modern American history–obtained a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump associates, and possibly Trump himself, in the heat of the presidential campaign. The Associated Press apparently didn’t know this.
I wonder how many reporters at the AP, NYT, and WaPO will be assigned to what could be (if evidence is forthcoming) the most compelling political scandal in the past 100 years—Watergate included. If there is a FISA warrant, I wonder why it hasn't been leaked to the AP, NYT, WaPo, or CNN? Then again, maybe it has, but the hamsters have decided to bury it.
Here a summary of what is known at this point in time from a well-researched post by Scott Johnson
(links to sources in the original):
...in the weeks prior to June 2016, the FBI did a preliminary investigation, apparently based on concerns about a server at Trump Tower that allegedly had some connection to Russian financial institutions. Even if there were such a connection, it is not a crime to do business with Russian banks — lots of Americans do. It should come as no surprise, then, that the FBI found no impropriety and did not proceed with a criminal investigation. [Emphasis mine]
What is surprising, though, is that the case was not closed down.
Instead, the Obama Justice Department decided to pursue the matter as a national-security investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In June, it sought the FISA court’s permission to conduct surveillance on a number of Trump associates — and perhaps even Trump himself. It has been reported that Trump was “named” in the application, but it is not publicly known whether he (a) was named as a proposed wiretap target, or (b) was just mentioned in passing in the application.
Understand the significance of this: Only the Justice Department litigates before the FISA court; this was not some rogue investigators; this was a high level of Obama’s Justice Department — the same institution that, at that very moment, was whitewashing the Clinton e-mail scandal. And when Justice seeks FISA surveillance authority, it is essentially telling that court that there is probable cause to believe that the targets have acted as agents of a foreign power — that’s the only basis for getting a FISA warrant.
It's too early to come to a definitive conclusion, but waffling has already begun. Obama spokespeople are choosing their words very
carefully as they respond to the allegation. From an AP account:
Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered in any Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of political influence.
“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” Lewis said, adding that “any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Hmmm. Weasel words to the max. "... no White House official ever interfered..." does not mean that the justice department wasn't tapping Trumps phones. "... neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen" is meaningless and very misleading. Obama and/or the White House can't do that, but the justice department (demonstrably under Obama's thumb at the time) can go to court and have a judge order a wiretap.
Sit back and get some popcorn. The Dems punched hard with the Russian allegations and had Trump on the ropes. But it looks like Trump counterpunched with deadly force and if early evidence holds, with far more substance.
We'll see what happens.
In the long tradition of Benghazi and the IRS scandal, the media cover-up begins. The New York Times
can't avoid a story of this magnitude, but they entitle their lead article: "Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones." Now you'd think that the NYT might have the investigative firepower to determine whether any evidence of the allegation exists—leaks maybe? But instead they begin a whitewash attacking the allegation. Odd, they don't do that when vacuous allegations of nefarious Russian connections to Trump are leveled by Democrats.
In any event, buried deep in the NYT article
After The Washington Post reported that Mr. Flynn and the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, had discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had just imposed on Russia, Mr. Flynn was pushed out of his post by the White House because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls.
Hmmm. How, exactly, did the WaPo get definitive information about Flynn's phone conversations? That is a pivotal question that the NYT doesn't seem to feel is worth posing. If his phone was tapped, by whom and for what reason? If it wasn't, how did the WaPO learn the content of his conversation (which by the way, was innocuous). Who authorized the tap? What court approved it? And even more important, was that wire tap part of a much broader and politically motivated wiretapping attack on the Trump campaign authorized by the Obama Justice Department that had already proven it was the most partisan in history?
Bad stuff went on, but the NYT like all of the other trained hamsters in the media, will work as hard as they can to minimize the impact. Who would have though that the media would have to cover for Obama after he left office? Amazing.
And this from a post from Craig Pirrong
I won’t comment in detail on the substance of today’s latest outbreak of our fevered politics: Trump’s accusation that Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower and the Trump campaign. I will just mention one fact that strongly supports the veracity of Trump’s allegation: namely, the very narrow–and lawyerly–“denials” emanating from the Obama camp.
Obama and his surrogates–notably the slug (or is he a cockroach?) Ben Rhodes–harrumph that Obama could not unilaterally order electronic surveillance. Well, yes, it is the case that Obama did not personally issue the order: the FISA court did so. But even if that is literally correct, it is also true that the FISA court would not unilaterally issue such an order: it would only do so in response to a request from the executive branch. Thus, Obama is clearly implicated even if he did not issue the order. He could have ordered his subordinates to make the request to the court, or could have approved a subordinate’s request to seek an order. Maybe he merely hinted, a la Henry II–“will no one rid me of this turbulent candidate?” (And “turbulent” is a good adjective to apply to Trump.) But regardless, there is no way that such a request to the court in such a fraught and weighty matter would have proceeded without Obama’s acquiescence.
I therefore consider that the substance of Trump’s charge–that he was surveilled at behest of Obama has been admitted by the principals.
This episode illustrates a broader point that is definitely useful to keep in mind. What Obama and his minions (and the Democrats and many in the media) say is likely to be correct, strictly speaking, but fundamentally misleading. In contrast, what Trump says is often incorrect, strictly speaking, but captures the fundamental truth. I would wager that is the case here.
The lawyer word games are not limited to this episode. The entire Sessions imbroglio smacks of scumbag lawyer tactics. The Unfunny Clown, Senator Al Franken, asked (in a convoluted way) a very narrow question (which was related to an even narrower written question in a set of interrogatories) about Session’s interactions with the Russians. Sessions answered the question–which was not an unconditional query about contacts with the Russians, but which related to very specific types of contacts and discussions. Franken and the Democrats then accused Sessions of perjury because the Senator (and then-Attorney General designate) had met with the Russian ambassador to the US on two occasions. Asking a narrow question, and then claiming the answer was a false response to a broader question (that was not asked) is a sleazy lawyer trick (and one that has been tried on me, BTW).
One last thing. Why did Trump push this button today? I can think of offensive and defensive reasons. Offensively, he might want to gain the initiative in the war against Obama and the intelligence community. Defensively, this could be an excellent way of derailing the Russia hysteria, and the calls for an investigation. If it turns out that there was an FBI investigation, and it turned up nothing, then there is no justification for further investigation, whether by Congress or law enforcement. So it could actually help Trump if the FBI and the intelligence community were forced to acknowledge that they had investigated, to no avail. By raising the issue, Trump is pressuring the FBI to put up or shut up.
The Democrats have never encountered anyone like Trump. Their sanctimonious viciousness, backed by their many media allies, usually cripples their GOP opponent. They're not used to an even more vicious counterattack. Heh.