The White House statement on “DeepStateGate” — President Donald Trump’s allegations that former President Barack Obama ordered surveillance on him during his 2016 presidential campaign — has the feel of cards and chips thumping down on the table:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 5, 2017
Until now, Democrats and their media have been pleased to create the impression that all kinds of wiretapping operations were conducted against the Trump campaign, uncovering many scandalous, possibly illegal connections. Only by reading those articles carefully does one discover the sources are highly speculative and the evidence is thin at best.
The much-discussed New York Times piece from January 19 is a perfect example of this. It begins by matter-of-factly confirming the existence of the wiretaps everyone in Obamaworld is now swearing are a figment of Donald Trump’s imagination. Mountains of innuendo about connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence have been spun out of what these abruptly non-existent intercepts contained, according to the anonymous leakers who currently drive almost 100 percent of mainstream media coverage.
But if you read that New York Times article carefully, it admits the communications intercepts may not exist, and if they do, no one can confirm what they actually say (emphasis added):
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.
It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself. It is also unclear whether the inquiry has anything to do with an investigation into the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers and other attempts to disrupt the elections in November. The American government has concluded that the Russian government was responsible for a broad computer hacking campaign, including the operation against the D.N.C.
Whatever President Trump’s intentions were in using Twitter to touch off this firestorm, one of the immediate effects has been letting the gas out of all those speculative Trump stories. The Democratic media is now furiously working to prove all of its own previous coverage of the Trump-Russia allegations was little more than idle speculation, every bit as lacking in hard evidence as Trump’s accusation that Obama was tapping his phones.
After months of unfounded allegations and badly sourced speculation intended to cripple his administration, maybe Trump wanted to prove that only one side of the partisan divide is permitted to make “wild allegations.” Obama’s plants in the Deep State can leak whatever they please, law and truth be damned. They can get an avalanche of hostile coverage moving with a few phone calls or emails. The media feels no contrition when the story turns out to be exaggerated or completely false, eagerly turning to the same Obama holdovers as sources for the next big phony scoop.
No one on Trump’s team, including the president himself, is allowed to reciprocate in kind. We are meant to feel bottomless outrage that Trump would level unsubstantiated allegations against Obama, but apparently, Obama’s minions can launch a constant barrage of unsubstantiated allegations against Trump.
Intentionally or accidentally, Trump just forced the press to admit how weak the bulk of those allegations were. The wiretapping timeline that has drawn so much attention since Saturday night was largely based on mainstream media reporting. The media is effectively saying, “Hey, wait, we were just blowing smoke. We didn’t think anyone would take those reports seriously and build a case that Obama was wiretapping Trump. We just wanted to make Trump look bad by pumping up vague rumors that he and his campaign might have been under observation!”
Amazingly, the same media that just went through 48 hours of convulsions over a bogus “perjury” charge against Attorney General Jeff Sessions is happy to cite an actual, admitted perjurer, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, as an unimpeachable source on the exact issue he lied about to Congress. They also expect the American people to trust former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who openly bragged of his ability to mislead credulous reporters and construct phony narratives to sell the Iran nuclear deal.
The Obama administration’s enthusiasm for surveillance and using government power against its political enemies is a matter of shameful record. The no-holds-barred “Resistance” mindset among Democrats is painfully obvious. If they are running a “silent coup” against Trump, it’s the loudest silent coup in history. You can scarcely sleep at night over the racket this silent coup makes.
Sorry, DNC Media, no sale. In the absence of hard evidence one way or the other, Team Obama is not going to win a credibility shootout with Team Trump.
One of the best and most even-handed observers of the wiretapping drama is Andy McCarthy, who writes for the decidedly non-Trumpian National Review. McCarthy’s Sunday post on the matter is well worth reading in full. His key point is that some highly unusual FISA requests for surveillance on the Trump campaign were made and were denied by the court, as very few such requests are. The Obama administration was persistent and eventually obtained the authorization it wanted, but there is reason to suspect it was not entirely candid with the FISA court on its final, successful request.
McCarthy points out that if Obama believed half of what the Democrats tout as sacred truth about the Russians working with Trump’s campaign, he would have been negligent not to authorize the kind of surveillance Trump is angry about, and there is “a less than zero chance” surveillance could have been imposed “without consultation between the Justice Department and the White House.”
Robert Barnes at LawNewz also explores the idea of the FISA court approving a warrant that was submitted without Trump’s name but “which Obama then misused to spy on Trump and many connected to Trump.” He suggests the most serious legal jeopardy that might be facing the people involved in such an effort would be perjury for lying to the FISA court and the dissemination of collected intelligence that should have been kept tightly classified. Instead, he cites reports that Obama acted to reduce the restrictions on sharing this information and to preserve material that should have been destroyed.
What McCarthy and Barnes are describing is plausible and consistent with the behavior of the Obama administration over many years. That doesn’t mean it’s automatically true, but it should be investigated, every bit as thoroughly as Russian activity in the 2016 election cycle. Trump’s weekend tweets may have finally put an end to speculative reporting, strategic leaking, and innuendo. Perhaps the only way to end that game was for Trump to deal himself in.