President Trump labeled ex-President Obama a “bad or sick guy” in a tweet on Saturday, accusing Obama of tapping his phones during the presidential campaign. Through a spokesman, Obama denied any direct involvement in ordering surveillance on Trump, his associates, or his campaign.
By denouncing Obama in such an explosive and public manner, Trump has escalated the controversy over alleged Russian interference in the campaign into a political war between the current and former presidents. The move is Trump’s boldest play yet, the equivalent of poker’s all-in re-raise against Democrat allegations of Russian collusion. While almost all of official Washington is shocked by Trump’s gamble, there is strong reason to believe he holds the winning hand.
Details related to electronic eavesdropping approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) are classified, but press reports make clear that an application for surveillance at Trump Tower in Manhattan was approved in October of last year. Obama associates deny he ordered the wiretap, but pointedly do not deny its existence.
The mainstream media has seized upon the FISA-approval process to refute Trump’s allegation, stating that the president does not approve FISA applications and therefore that Trump is not only wrong, but stupid and ignorant. This conveniently ignores the fact that the previous attorney general, Loretta Lynch, could have ordered the surveillance either at Obama’s explicit direction, or, more likely, with his tacit approval.
The press, as members of the opposition party, have repeated that there is no evidence to support Obama’s involvement. In any case, the distinction between Obama and his administration is ultimately a false one, unless Obama is willing to explicitly repudiate the actions of his subordinates. FBI Director James Comey has requested that the Justice Department (DOJ) issue a statement denying Obama ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones, but such a statement would only confirm the obvious fact that Obama is not on record as doing so himself.
Why It’s Likely Team Obama Is Firing Blanks
A major problem in sorting facts from conjecture is the secretive nature of the FISA proceedings, so most if not all of the facts are based on leaks; however, we do know that the FBI and DOJ would have to have presented a formal affidavit for surveillance to the court for it to be legal. A previous application to the court was made in June, and named Trump in some capacity, but was rejected. To illustrate how rare is a FISA court rejection, consider that during the six years between 2009 and 2015, only one request was rejected out of more than 10,000.
The affidavit written by the FBI requested authorization to collect data on a server the Trump campaign used, ostensibly to look into ties by Trump associates with two Russian banks, although no wrongdoing was established. Given the sieve-like nature of the national security apparatus on the alleged Trump-Russia connection, one can be confident that no other wrongdoing was discovered either, otherwise it would be on the front page of every newspaper. Obama, and his allies in the media and on Capitol Hill, are more than likely out of ammunition, and they were firing blanks to begin with.
The sole casualty of this fake news investigation was Michael Flynn, whose fear of rampaging Democrats led him to mislead the vice president on a matter that was neither illegal nor improper. The fact that members of the Obama administration informed the president that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador may be taken as confirmation that they were listening to Trump associate phone calls.
Furthermore, as Flynn was not one of three Trump associates the FBI and Justice Department initially suspected either of wrongdoing or of being a foreign agent, one may presume that the surveillance cast a wider net than the original affidavit would have suggested.
Was the Deep State Working to Benefit Hillary?
The key question that will have to be answered is: who and what were the intelligence services of the United States listening to and reading? Did the FBI and the Justice Department manipulate the FISA process to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign, and did they directly or indirectly assist the Clinton campaign? Watergate merely involved hiring a few criminals to bug the opposition, then attempting to cover up their crime. If true, the Obama administration’s actions would involve criminalizing large sections of the executive branch into an East German-style police state.
As it is highly unlikely that the 11 federal judges of the FISA court met en banc—i.e., all together—to review the DOJ surveillance request, did the administration use the same judge who had rejected the first request for the second one? Trump was named in some capacity in the first request, which was rejected. It is entirely possible that the second request, which did not include Trump’s name, was made to a different judge, who may have been ignorant of its relation to Trump’s campaign. This is conjecture, but given the past behavior of the Obama administration, they may have judge-shopped their request and lied by omission.
News reports indicate the existence of “a multi-agency working group to coordinate [the Trump-Russia] investigations across the government.” Why? If nothing stays a secret for more than 24 hours, and no evidence of wrongdoing has come to light, what were or are all these agencies working on?
It is a matter of public record that in his final days, Obama relaxed longstanding National Security Agency rules so intelligence could be widely shared within the government before applying privacy protections. What was the purpose of this order if not to assist government employees hostile to the incoming administration in leaking material that portrayed Trump in a negative light?
The Obama Administration’s Record Is Sketchy
Efforts by White House Counsel Donald McGahn to obtain investigative documents related to the FISA court have met howls that he is interfering in an ongoing investigation, yet who and what exactly are the FBI and DOJ investigating? One suspects they are keeping the investigation alive because its existence perpetuates the myth of Trump’s wrongdoing. They didn’t find anything, and admitting it would be severely embarrassing; and they don’t want to reveal what they did or how they did it.
Only Congress has the ability to subpoena the relevant testimony and materials, but one shouldn’t be surprised if a parade of Fifth Amendment-takers, “I don’t recall”-ers, missing memos, and shredded hard drives appear, for that is the modus operandi of Obama administration officials in all their other scandals.
Indeed, the Obama administration had a history of improperly using FISA-authorized surveillance on their domestic political enemies. As reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2015, “NSA’s targeting of Israeli leaders swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers… wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. ‘We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ a senior U.S. official said. We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”
The Obama administration also concocted a ludicrous excuse to conduct surveillance on Fox News’ James Rosen, whom it named as a “criminal co-conspirator” in an effort to track down leaks related to North Korean nuclear tests. The Obama DOJ went beyond investigating Rosen’s professional work and searched his personal emails.
Perhaps the DOJ believed Rosen was using alternative email addresses for business, in the same manner that Secretary of State Clinton, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson did to evade Freedom of Information requests, to conceal questionable activity. Obama was proven to have lied about not knowing that Clinton used a personal email, when records show he replied to it. Obama also had a private email address, which he used for official business.
This Is Going to Be Nuts
The Obama DOJ also surveilled reporters at the Associated Press in an effort the New York Times called “chilling.” The DOJ went “through The A.P.’s records for months. The dragnet covered work, home and cellphone records used by almost 100 people at one of the oldest and most reputable news organizations.”
It should be remembered that alleged Russian involvement in the campaign centered around leaking emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary campaign. Did the DOJ exercise the same “chilling zeal” with the Trump campaign as they displayed with leaks given to Fox News and the AP?
Lynch met secretly with Bill Clinton at the same time Hillary Clinton was being investigated by the FBI. Comey, whatever he said in public notwithstanding, managed to take an excellent case of criminal wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton on a wide range of offenses, and either bungle or bury it.
While there is no smoking gun thus far, the cover of secrecy cannot hold against an enflamed administration armed with congressional subpoenas. The press can refuse to connect the dots and ignore the mountain of evidence piling up, but the truth will come out. The Russia-Trump scandal will likely be revealed as an ugly, possibly illegal, fabrication conducted by the “bad or sick guy” Obama, who was so obsessed with “punishing his enemies” that he violated every norm of decency that a democracy depends on to survive.