Trump is a virtuoso at playing the media.
He mentioned he’d ban the burning of the American flag – the media rushed to show Leftists burning the American flag. He promoted the observation that many hate crimes were hoaxes – soon after, it emerged that the author of the threats against Jewish centers was a Black social justice writer for The Intercept who had been fired for making up sources. He claimed you wouldn’t believe what had happened in Sweden yesterday – we couldn’t believe what happened to Sweden tomorrow.
Bearing in mind the MSM’s consistency in “misunderestimating” Trump’s wiles, let’s move on to #Wiretapgate.
On March 4, Trump claimed that President Obama was “tapping” his phones in October, turbocharging the political scandal around his administration.
Here is a summary of the key elements, based upon this timeline compiled by Mark Levin and Joel Pollack:
- Obama had drilled little holes all over the ship of state by “expanding the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections” in January as his parting gift to Trump, ensuring the new administration would be inundated with leaks.
- New York Times report in January that the FBI, CIA, NSA, and Treasury Department were monitoring “several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties,” and later reports in February that the FBI had “intercepted a conversation in 2016 between future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn” and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
- Levin summarizes: “T he Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.“
Barack Obama’s spokesman has denied this in legalistic terms:
A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
As Alexander Mercouris points out, this “does not deny that Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower was wiretapped,” nor that his “‘associates’ (a flexible word the precise meaning of which has never been made clear) or members of his campaign team were placed under surveillance.” I would further emphasize that Obama specifically referred to “US citizens,” whereas no such protections apply to foreign citizens, and indeed we know from the Snowden leaks that it is standard strategy for the NSA to circumvent Americans’ protections by listening to American citizens’ communications with foreigners and by closely cooperating with allied foreign intelligence services, especially those of the Five Eyes (incidentally, Britain has figured prominently in this affair, from Christopher Steele’s dodgy dossier to the recent NYT article which claimed that some of the intelligence linking people in the Trump campaign and various Russians came from British and Dutch intelligence).
A further problem is that the net is cast so wide that, as the NYT inadventently admits, virtually any Russian in America with a non-hostile relationship to the Putin government is considered suspect:
The label “intelligence official” is not always cleanly applied in Russia, where ex-spies, oligarchs and government officials often report back to the intelligence services and elsewhere in the Kremlin. Steven L. Hall, the former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A., said that Mr. Putin was surrounded by a cast of characters, and that it was “fair to say that a good number of them come from an intelligence or security background. Once an intel guy, always an intel guy in Russia.”
Again, as Alexander Mercouris points out, this would encompass many of Trump’s people who have had perfectly legal and transparent business relationships with Russia, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Furthermore, I would add that by this standard a huge percentage of the US government would be compromised, since promoting US-Russia business ties has been a plank of US diplomacy until 2014 (ironically, as I pointed out a year ago, Mitt Romney, who is coldly disposed to Trump and called Russia America’s “number one geopolitical foe,” probably actually had considerably more substantive business dealings in Russia than Trumputin himself).
To be sure, Trump’s claim on Twitter, at least, is likely false. But it does not appear to be a lie borne out of his idiocy, stress, fury, narcissism, or whatever the MSM’s latest projection consists of.
Consider the following: Trump has successfully whipped the media into a feeding frenzy, focusing the public’s attention on this in a way that acting low-key could never have. And the reality for the Establishment appears to be bad enough. Continuing to assume that there is no substantive meat to the ROG (Russian Occupation Government) conspiracy theory, what we are left with is a scandal of at least Watergate proportions, if not more so – as Alexander Mercouris points out, whereas under Nixon the scandal was that the CIA and FBI had refused to do his bidding against his political opponents, here you would have the even more egregious case of the US security agencies colluding against Trump by “carrying out surveillance upon him and his associates though there has never been any evidence that either he or they did anything wrong.”
This is the real story and I suspect we are soon going to see its denouement.