Donald Trump Accuses 'Bad (or Sick)' Barack Obama of Tapping Trump Tower
On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, accusing former President Barack Obama of wire tapping the phones in Trump Tower.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump tweeted. "How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
Many outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, emphasized that Trump cited or offered "no evidence" to support these claims. In fact, there are multiple sources he could have used, and the most likely explanation is that Trump read a story by Breitbart News Editor Joel Pollak, published Friday.
Pollak reported about radio host Mark Levin's Thursday show, which outlined the "known steps taken by President Barack Obama's administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump's presidential campaign and, later, his new administration." Two of the events in the outline (bullet points 1 and 4) discussed Obama administration requests to use the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of individuals close to Trump.
According to an article in HeatStreet published on the eve of the election, the first FISA request was denied in June, but another request was granted in October, "after evidence was presented of [the private server in Trump Tower], possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia's Alfa Bank." This report did not specify that phones in Trump Tower had been tapped — only that the server was in Trump Tower.
HeatStreet cited two unnamed sources in the intelligence community, and explained that these sources had knowledge unavailable to the sources behind a recent New York Times report, due to "compartmentalization."
Andrew McCarthy, writing in National Review, explained that, in contrast to FBI wiretaps, FISA taps are easier to obtain and do not require probable cause linked to a specific crime. "Agents do not ordinarily draw FISA requests around possible crimes," McCarthy explained. "Possible crimes prompt applications for regular criminal wiretaps because the objective is to prosecute any such crimes in court. (It is rare and controversial to use FISA wiretaps in criminal prosecutions.)"
McCarthy worried that this case might be an example of "the government pretexually using its national-security authority to continue a criminal investigation after determining it lacked evidence of crimes."
If the HeatStreet article and McCarthy's suspicions are correct, this is indeed an overstep of the Obama administration, and the timing is particularly concerning — to have a Democrat administration launch an investigation into the Republican presidential candidate in October of an election year, on less-than-criminal grounds, is a major scandal.
Then again, the HeatStreet report has not been fully confirmed. What was confirmed — by The New York Times on the day before Trump's inauguration, no less — is that communications of Trump's staff were intercepted by the intelligence community. Three Trump campaign advisers were particularly under scrutiny: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former policy adviser Carter Page, and Roger Stone.
Manafort does indeed cause some concern on the other side of the ledger. As PJ Media reported, Trump's former campaign manager once worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin's puppet in the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, in August it was revealed that Ukraine's pro-Putin Party of Regions listed $12.7 million for Manafort in a secret ledger.
It is possible that Trump chose Manafort (specifically to head his campaign going into the Republican National Convention) for his expertise at political conventions, rather than his Russia ties — and Manafort left the campaign shortly after the convention.
There are serious problems with the Trump-Russia narrative, which the president has flatly denied in his hyperbolic way. But Putin could not have handed Trump the election — not merely because he can't force the American people to cast votes a certain way, but because to do so would have required impossible foresight and power.
As PJ Media's Walter Hudson pointed out, "to attribute Trump's victory to Russia endows them with a godlike omniscience and omnipotence so insurmountable that we might as well accept it." Trump was seen as the underdog against Clinton from the beginning — and especially so after the Access Hollywood tapes. "To say Russia knew what was going to happen, and how to manipulate it, one must believe that the Kremlin has greater insight into the American electorate than most Americans do."
Rather, it seems much more likely that David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, was onto something when he suggested that the Russians weren't trying to aid Trump's campaign, but rather attempting to destabilize Hillary Clinton's inevitable presidency. Remnick argued that the Russians — like the vast majority of Americans — believed Clinton was inevitable and aimed to damage her leadership. He added that the Russians are now fearful of Trump, and that "there's a lot of buyer's remorse."
If this is true, the Obama administration's investigation into Trump's Russia ties becomes even more suspect. Whether or not President Obama himself was personally involved is much more up for debate than Trump seemed to suggest in his tweets.
Trump seemed to threaten legal action against the former president, tweeting, "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to the Election!"
It is truly ironic that President Trump is now defending the "very sacred election process" after claiming on the campaign trail that it was "rigged." It is also possible that President Obama was not directly involved with the FISA request or the wiretapping — although it seems unlikely it would have happened without his knowledge.
Shortly after tweeting about Obama's "Watergate," Trump moved on to address the reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger was leaving the president's old show, "Celebrity Apprentice." The president tweeted, "Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show."
If Trump wanted his allegations about Obama taken seriously, he might have refrained from switching the subject shortly thereafter. Still, the reports are concerning.
It is important for the American people to learn how and why things happened. Was there sufficient evidence to suspect Trump was being manipulated by the Russians? Did the October FISA request really grant the Obama administration the ability to tap into communications of Republican operatives, right before the election? Is McCarthy's suspicion correct that there was no evidence of a potential crime, but only political motivations?
In typical Trumpian style, the president has leapt to conclusions which are not yet supported by clear evidence. Nevertheless, there is a trail of breadcrumbs suggesting similar conclusions. Which is more likely: that Trump is a Russian spy, or that an outgoing Democratic administration did everything in its power to undermine his campaign?
Is the Democrats' "Red Scare" really a justification for Watergate? Or is all of this just a very powerful Chinese curse that America is doomed to live in interesting times?