Archive for March 5th, 2017
First, the parties:
Trump – blew the whistle on the wiretaps
Russians – also live in Trump Tower
FBI – investigates crime, responsible for tracking spies, managing that sort of security
Obama White House
Obama White House said that it never ordered such a thing, and I believe them. It’s not credible, and the accuser has zero, possibly negative, credibility. So that’s out.
So what are the possibilities?
- FBI is doing the tapping. They might be tapping Trump or an associate (on a warrant with some sort of cause); they might be tapping the Russians or Trump’s associates (if one is suspected of being a foreign agent: that’s exactly what the FBI does); or both; or were tapping Russians and got Donald Trump or associates talking to Russians; or were tapping Donald Trump or associates and discovered Russians talking to him.
- Russians are doing the tapping: tapping Donald Trump or his associates. In this case, the FBI may have found the Russian taps (e.g., in a sweep of the phone system when Trump became president), and that was confused in Trump’s mind with the government tapping him.
- Trump is making up the whole thing as a distraction; or, Trump discovered the FBI wiretaps on the Russians and revealed an important counter-intelligence operation; or, Trump made up the whole thing and what he thought was a lie was in fact true and he blew the whole operation
The Wife pointed out one interesting: Trump, with his paranoia and hyperbole, said long ago, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dems were bugging me,” and then that drifted off into the echo chamber of the right and echoed back as the Breitbart stuff Trump read, and because the article confirmed exactly what he had been worried about, he decides that confirms it, only the “confirmation” is just the echo of his original offhand remark. So that’s an additional possibility.
Benjamin Wittes asks some more questions at Lawfare:
Yesterday, I posed ten questions for President Trump in response to his bizarre Twitter temper tantrum accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower in the days before the election.
In the hours after I did so, a variety of media organizations began reporting—unsurprisingly, I suppose—that the President’s tweets were not based on any information that came from within the executive branch—indeed, that the White House was now scrambling to find some evidence to substantiate the president’s statements. Here’s how the New York Times characterized it:
His aides declined to clarify on Saturday whether the president’s allegations were based on briefings from intelligence or law enforcement officials — which could mean that Mr. Trump was revealing previously unknown details about the investigation — or on something else, like a news report.
But a senior White House official said that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working to secure access to what Mr. McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.
The official offered no evidence to support the notion that such an order exists. It would be a highly unusual breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence on law enforcement matters for the White House to order it to turn over such an investigative document.
Any request for information from a top White House official about a continuing investigation would be a stunning departure from protocols intended to insulate the F.B.I. from political pressure. It would be even more surprising for the White House to seek information about a case directly involving the president or his advisers, as does the case involving the Russia contacts.
After the White House received heavy criticism for the suggestion that Mr. McGahn would breach Justice Department independence, a different administration official said that the earlier statements about his efforts had been overstated. The official said the counsel’s office was looking at whether there was any legal possibility of gleaning information without impeding or interfering with an investigation. The counsel’s office does not know whether an investigation exists, the official said.
Also yesterday, the estimable Julian Sanchez writing on Just Security, penned this excellent explainer piece about what he thinks is really going on. I find entirely plausible Sanchez’s suspicion that Trump is really just channeling and garbling accounts in news stories about surveillance around the campaign that have been kicking around for some time.
All that said, Sanchez’s account is speculative. And we thus still have on our hands a definitive presidential statement that his phones were “wiretapped” by his predecessory. Unless and until the President retracts those statements or amends them to comport with Julian’s sense (which I share) of what the reality probably is, I think we all have an obligation to take the words of the President of the United States seriously.
So in that spirit, here are ten more questions for President Trump on the subject of his tweetstorm yesterday:
- To the extent any wiretap you revealed yesterday was previously classified, your tweets have declassified the fact of its existence. Do you agree that the FBI, DOJ, and the FISA Court are now at liberty to confirm the existence of any FISA surveillance that may have been taking place at Trump Tower or against its occupants?
- Do you agree that, to whatever extent no such surveillance was taking place, the fact of its absence—which is to say the fact that you were either lying or making up facts or repeating allegations published in Breitbart with no idea of their accuracy—is also not classified?
- Will you similarly declassify any material the underlying FISA application may contain so that the public can understand the basis or lawlessness of the alleged Obama surveillance of your campaign and business?
- You say that there was “Nothing found” in the wiretapping of Trump Tower. Are you thereby declassifying the fruits of any surveillance that may have taken place? Will you?
- You say that the surveillance was “Turned down by court earlier.” Are you thereby declassying the fact of and waiving any privacy interests in any earlier application to the FISA Court or to any federal district court under Title III—and in any rulings that any court may have made on the subject?
- . . .
The Marriage Minute sends brief daily emails of research-based relationship advice. It looks pretty good, certainly worth a try. Includes advice to parents re: children.