Earlier this morning, Scott linked to an article by Steve Hayes in the Weekly Standard that does a good job of summing up what we know and don’t know about the claim President Trump made via Twitter on Saturday morning, to the effect that the Obama administration wiretapped his offices in Trump Tower. Steve’s view is that we are in a state of utter uncertainty as to whether FISA applications relating to Trump or his associates were ever made.
Meanwhile, some are hailing Mark Levin’s “proof” that the Obama administration did indeed target Trump’s campaign for surveillance. But Levin appears to be relying on the same press reports that we have already discussed here.
I find one statement in Steve Hayes’s piece hard to believe:
White House sources acknowledge that Trump had no idea whether the claims he was making were true when he made them.
It’s possible that is true. If so, Trump was grotesquely irresponsible, and the consequences could be devastating to his presidency.
But there is another possibility. Trump has had his people (some of them, anyway) in place at the Department of Justice for a month now. Attorney General Sessions, or someone working for him, certainly could find out what FISA warrants have been applied for and obtained. Sessions was with Trump over the weekend.
Trump tweeted that he had “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found.” Maybe on Friday evening, Sessions (or someone) confirmed to the president that press reports about the Obama administration seeking and ultimately obtaining a FISA warrant were true. Then Trump
stewed about it considered his strategic options overnight, and let loose his tweets early on Saturday morning.
Is that what happened? I don’t know. But, given that he now has people in place in the Justice Department who can find out what FISA warrants have been applied for and issued, it would have been incredibly stupid to make the accusation without first verifying that it is true. And, unless Trump was flat-out lying, his “just found out” suggests that this is what occurred.
Glenn Reynolds offers this speculation:
Hypothesis: The spying-on-Trump thing is worse than we even imagine, and once it was clear Hillary had lost and it would inevitably come out, the Trump/Russia collusion talking point was created as a distraction. Now it’s being rowed back because the talk of “transcripts” supports the spying-on-Trump storyline.
Will we ever know? Maybe, if there’s a proper investigation into Obama Administration political spying.
Meanwhile, the rumors being floated about Trump are being retracted, and once everyone from Comey to Clapper has denied that he was ever under investigation, future “leaks” will come pre-discredited.
The facts should come out sooner rather than later. Jeff Sessions will give an interview before long, and if the interviewer has any sense, he or she will ask what Sessions has learned about his predecessors’ seeking warrants to surveil the Trump campaign.
PAUL ADDS: I hope the scenario John suggests is what happened, and maybe it is. But if Trump’s accusation against Obama is based on information Jeff Sessions’ team discovered in Justice Department files, the White House should have let this be known instead of leaving it to supporters to infer.
I should also note, for what it’s worth, that the New York Times, citing White House sources, says White House counsel Donald McGahn “was working to secure access to what [he] believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.” If so, Trump did not have FISA court material to back his claim when he made it; nor did the White House.