WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s March 4 tweetstorm was a stunning occurrence, even for someone who regularly spews controversial thoughts on social media. On that day, Trump lobbed the explosive allegation that his predecessor wiretapped his phone during the campaign season.
Beyond some murmurings on right-wing websites, Trump was the first to make this accusation against Barack Obama. And coming from the sitting president, it immediately created a firestorm, with even his close allies unable to back up his claims.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, however, offered a very simple explanation for this phenomenon two days later: “He’s the president of the United States. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not.”
On his allegations of wiretapping, none of the people who might have provided him with such secret intelligence have supported him. In fact, many have issued statements refuting those allegations:
* FBI Director James Comey: “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee Monday.
* House Intelligence Committee: Congress took up an investigation of the substance of Trump’s tweets at the request of the White House. But instead of vindicating him, the investigation exposed Trump’s claims as nothing more than a conspiracy theory.
Last week, the House Intelligence Committee received information from the Justice Department related to the wiretapping claims. Both the chair of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and the ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said the evidence showed nothing to back up the president.
“Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, there never was,” Nunes said Sunday. “The information we got on Friday continues to lead us in that direction.”
“I got a classified briefing on [the DOJ] response. They delivered it after most of us had left town. But once again, no evidence to support the president’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor,” Schiff added.
* Senate Intelligence Committee: In a joint statement last week, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the committee ― Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) ― said they saw nothing to support Trump’s theory: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”
* Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: Clapper served as the director of national intelligence under Obama, during the time Trump claimed the president wiretapped him. Clapper said that none of the agencies he oversaw engaged in such activity: “For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.”
* Former President Barack Obama: “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, said in a statement. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
* The British Government: Although Conway said that Trump knew more than the rest of us and therefore would be in a position to know about secret wiretapping, the White House has pointed to media reports ― which are available to everyone ― as evidence for the March 4 tweets. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, for example, recently cited Fox News legal pundit Andrew Napolitano’s claim that Obama circumvented U.S. intelligence agencies and instead worked with British officials to spy on Trump. Napolitano specifically named the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, which is the equivalent of the National Security Agency.
In response, GCHQ took the unusual step of publicly commenting, calling the claim “utterly ridiculous” and saying it “should be ignored.”
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