Part of the weekend news dump was an announcement which has critics of the President all aflutter this morning. The Department of Justice, after a period of review which seems to have been unnecessarily lengthy, responded to a couple of tweets in which Donald Trump said that the Obama administration had “wiretapped” him during the election. Their findings, not surprisingly, were that there was no actual bug installed on the phones in Trump Tower, leading his detractors to proclaim that he lied about it. (Associated Press)
The Justice Department says in a legal filing that it has no information about wiretaps President Donald Trump once claimed had been made of Trump Tower in New York.
The department’s National Security Division and the FBI “confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by” Trump’s March tweets.
In those tweets, Trump alleged President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” prior to Election Day. He made similar assertions in several other tweets.
The FBI’s director at the time, James Comey, had said there was no evidence of a wiretap at Trump Tower.
Of course they weren’t bugging the phones. Even in an era repeatedly characterized by government incompetence, it’s impossible to imagine anyone in the DoJ on their very worst day being stupid enough to install a bug in the offices of a presidential candidate.
Of course, as the Washington Examiner pointed out immediately, Trump’s ill crafted initial tweet put the words “wires tapped” in scare quotes and later went on to explain that he was referring to surveillance efforts in general. Also, as to questions of other surveillance activity, either direct or indirect, the DoJ goes on to say that they can’t discuss those other methods.
The White House has responded that Trump was referring to surveillance in general and the White House has pointed to reports that indicate there were surveillance efforts against Trump before he took office.
DOJ noted in the motion that FBI and the DOJ can’t “confirm or deny the existence of any other responsive records” beyond the wiretaps.
The DOJ also noted it neither confirms nor denies the existence of other records related to the “wiretap” portion of the lawsuit because “merely acknowledging whether or not responsive records exist would itself cause harms protected against by FOIA exemptions.”
So nobody physically tapped the phones in Trump’s offices. As I alluded to above, knock me over with a feather.
Having gotten that out of the way, perhaps we’ll eventually learn all of the details of the information which was collected and eventually made its way to the newsrooms of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Much of it centers around the fairly well established fact that information on individuals associated with the Trump campaign was collected and then obtained by either Susan Rice, or more likely Samantha Power, who is said to have submitted literally hundreds of unmasking requests while being one of the least likely persons to have need for such detailed information.
The most likely scenario still seems to be that Trump got wind of the investigation leading to the unmasking back in March and decided to use variations of the phrase “wiretapping” in his tweets. But congratulations to everyone pushing the “nothing to see here” story, because you’ve got your conclusive proof that nobody was sneaking into Trump Towers in the middle of the night to plant bugs in the phones.