Even the most ardent Trump supporter these days has to admit that our president needs to rein in his twitter rants.
Early last Saturday morning, he accused President Obama of tapping “my wires.”
It was a serious accusation leveled with no effort to substantiate it. He really shouldn’t do that stuff. It’s irresponsible and it gives his detractors lots of ammunition.
Besides that, I’m not sure what it accomplishes. Seems to me like it’s a lose-lose. If Trump is right, that means there was enough evidence to get a warrant to tap his wires. If he’s wrong, he just libeled a former U.S. president by accusing him of a federal felony.
Having said all that, I will say this: It’s certainly not beyond the realm of probability that the Obama adminstration was wiretapping people in Trump Tower.
In fact, it seems as if that’s precisely what happened.
Here’s what the New York Times – who no one will accuse of being “alt-right” – reported on Jan. 19, a day before Trump took office under the headline, “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”
WASHINGTON — 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.
Intercepted communications and financial transactions. Does that translate into “President Obama tapped my wires?” I don’t know.
But the weird thing is how the New York Times handles these things. When it fit the narrative to push a connection between Russia and the Trump campaign, the NYT was all too willing to report – through anonymous sources – how the Obama administration was intercepting Trump communications.
But when Trump unleased his “tapped my wires” tweet,  the newspaper completely changed its tune. Here’s what the NYT had to say Monday:
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s accusations that President Barack Obama spied on him have stirred another tempest in his early months in office.
Mr. Trump offered no evidence to support his claims that Mr. Obama wiretapped his phones and rejected the assertion by the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, that the wiretapping claim was false, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman.
All the evidence Trump needed was in the Times’ Jan. 19 edition, but here’s how the Times gets around that:
The White House forwarded The New York Times several articles about investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that include the word “wiretapping.” None contend, as Mr. Trump did, that Mr. Obama personally ordered the surveillance of Trump Tower phones.
I see what they’re doing there. President Obama didn’t personally tap anybody’s phone or order it to be tapped.
Fair enough.
I’m confident President  Obama wasn’t sitting around  with headphones listening to Trump communications. But, according to the NYT’s own reporting, somebody in the Obama adminstration was.
Obama didn’t tap Trump’s wires. The Obama administration tapped Trump surrogate’s wires. Got it.
I can’t crawl into Trump’s brain to know if he really thinks it was Obama himself who tapped his wires or if “Obama” was a euphemism for “the Obama administration.”
But it’s like they say – whoever “they” are – words matter. Especially when you’re the president.
Then there’s the whole Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant thing.
HeatStreet.com is a news, opinion and commentary website based in the United States and United Kingdom. It was started by a U.S.-based British writer and former politician named Louise Mensch. It’s described as center right and libertarian.
HeatStreet reported there were two FISA warrant requests regarding Trump’s activities:
The first [FISA] request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the second was drawn more narrowly and was granted in October after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While a (New York) Times story speaks of metadata, sources suggest that a FISA warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern U.S. persons.
Similar stories were published by the BBC, The Guardian and McClatchy News Service.
Armed with this knowledge, I happened to be watching “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Chuck Todd, "There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign."
Well Clapper should know, shouldn’t he?
Yes, he should.
But wait, published reports from credible news sources say otherwise.
And according to the NYT, the FBI was conducting a “counter-intelligence” investigation in which it was reviewing “wiretapped data” and “intercepted communications” of Trump associates. How could they do that without a warrant?
See, these types of contradictions – and they are rampant these days – point to a larger issue that I see as a tragedy.
I – and lots of others, I’m afraid – have lost faith in some stalwart American institutions. Institutions that are important. Institutions that are the underpinnings of our constitutional republic – things like government, media and political parties.
I simply don’t know who to believe or trust anymore.