The fallout from Donald Trump’s tweet posted at 3:49 AM Saturday morning, resonates into the new week. That – given the magnitude of the implications involved, is not surprising. What is surprising is that even though the specific allegation he made – that President Obama wiretapped “a race for President”, was inaccurate – the fact that certain individuals in his campaign were under surveillance should not have come as a surprise to him and was not new info even if he discovered it on Breitbart by way of Mark Levin.
Even prior to election day, news reports surfaced that outlined an effort among multiple stakeholders in the U.S. intelligence community to respond to intel they received indicating that Russian banks were funneling money into the Trump campaign. They presented the findings to FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) courts, requesting permission to monitor specific individuals – Russian nationals, not American citizens.
When one FISA judge on October 15 last year, saw the probable cause sufficiently outlined, he issued the warrant. The order did not come from the White House. The notion one would take away from Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation was that the Obama administration directly ordered or authorized a general wiretap of Trump Tower, including all campaign phones. Didn’t happen and couldn’t happen because as various experts on the law have noted, the President does not have such authority. Trump would find out very quickly that he does not have the authority.
Now, to most people and reasonably so, any denials from officials of the Obama administration, would not be considered definitive on the question. Perhaps not even the rejections from such as the former CIA Director Michael Hayden, or Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, who in response to a reporter stated,
“There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign.”
But Trump now has a much more formidable opponent to his baseless claim – a member of his own administration.
FBI Director James B.Comey has sent an official request from his office to request that the Justice Department issue a formal statement rejecting President Trump’s wiretap claims. It is a remarkable move in light of the fact that Comey had been considered a hero to many Trump supporters when he issued a statement that Hillary Clinton’s emails were still under review at the FBI on October 28 – thirteen days before election day, which some believed was a pivotal point in the election. Now, they will be unhappy with his actions.
There would be only two possible reasons that Trump’s phone or that of his campaign staff or close associates would be tapped. The first would be if a Watergate-type “plumbers” operation was executed against him. No indications of any such event has surfaced.
Cato Institute fellow Julian Sanchez, says regarding Trump’s tweet:
“If he has evidence that he was wiretapped without a proper FISA order being sought, that would be a huge scandal, and he should produce whatever evidence he’s got. It’s a pretty serious claim, and it’s striking he would make it without anything solid to back it up.”
The second possibility is that the intelligence community had reason to suspect that Trump or his campaign was acting as an agent of a foreign power. If that were the case, it might be part of an ongoing investigation – the very one that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from.
Trump had better hope that nothing substantive emerges from that.