It all started with a tweet from President Donald Trump on the morning of Saturday March 4. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy.”
Here’s what we know. President Trump has accused his predecessor former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, a very serious claim. We know that there were two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests made to surveil Trump Tower during the campaign, one in June 2016 which was denied, and one in October 2016 which was approved.
We know that President Obama has denied the surveillance allegations through a spokesperson. However, we also know that President Obama has had a track record of using surveillance methods to track his opponents.
For instance, he had the phones tapped of Fox News Correspondent James Rosen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among others. We also know that Congress has agreed to initiate an inquiry into President Trump’s claims as part of the larger probe investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
We further know that FBI Director James Comey has stated that the President’s allegations are untrue and has asked the Department of Justice to publicly reject them. As of this writing, the Department of Justice has not yet responded to Director Comey’s request.
As anticipated, the liberal media have enveavored to completely discredit and delegitimize the President’s claims arguing that Trump received his information from an article on Breitbart and then just started tweeting his “conspiracy theory” that former President Obama was spying on him.
The idea that Donald Trump is a rogue individual who makes rash reactive emotional decisions is a narrative which has been spun by the mainstream media. The seeds of this narrative were planted when then-candidate Trump was delivering his initial campaign speeches without a teleprompter. Somehow Trump’s ability to engage emotionally with the public was bastardized into the perception that he lacked the ability or the willingness to stick to the talking points.
By contrast, President Trump is an individual who prides himself on winning. He never publicly asks a question for which he does not already know the answer. Given,the personality of the man who now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we have to ask ourselves why Trump would claim that wiretapping had taken place unless he had some form of “proof.”
What is the upside of making what the media are referring to as “an unsubstantiated claim?” There is none. If he is wrong, he appears like a sophomoric conspiracy theorist. I am also not buying the theory that Trump concocted the wiretapping allegation against President Obama to shift the narrative away from the controversy surrounding Attorney General Jeff Session’s confirmation testimony about his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
In this scenario, Trump’s only mistake was to use Twitter to lobby his claim against President Obama. However, the severity of the accusation is undermined by the communication vehicle. President Trump has done a masterful job of leveraging Twitter to communicate directly with the people. However, this would have been one instance where it would have been better to have levied the accusation in a more formal channel and then tweeted about it afterwards.
That being said, Trump’s style does not negate the substance of his claim. The FISA Court order needs to be released for review by the President and others as necessary. While that may be something which rarely happens due to the separation of powers, we are living in a very unusual time where political parties have increasingly more tools at their disposal to conduct opposition research. As they say, where there is smoke, there is usually fire. We just need to know where to look for the “smoking gun.”