The exchange lasts less than 30 seconds. Note the question that’s asked — not about surveillance generally but about Trump’s specific claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped.
You can watch the extended conversation here at 8:10 but it doesn’t change the context. She’s asked about wiretapping of Trump HQ and she volunteers what appears to be a reference to last week’s Wikileaks revelations, which claimed that the CIA is capable of spying on people through their Smart TVs. What does that have to do with Obama supposedly spying on Trump? Well … nothing, according to Conway’s new spin. Watch the snippets below of her exchanges with Stephanopoulos and Chris Cuomo, who asked her about the “spy microwave” theory. I was speaking generally about surveillance, she says, not about wiretapping at Trump Tower, of which she has no evidence. (Quote: “I’m not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for.”) If you drew an inference from her answer to a question about Obama wiretapping Trump that she was talking about Obama wiretapping Trump, well, that’s on you.
Reporters are scratching their heads about what Conway was up to here beyond basic reflexive gaslighting. I think she had something particular in mind. The conspiracy theory that the CIA might have hacked the DNC and John Podesta and used spycraft to pin it on Russia is going gangbusters in pockets of the right lately, even though it makes no sense. (Why would the intelligence community have wanted to help Trump become president by airing Democratic dirty laundry, only to spend the months since the inauguration undermining him?) It’s part of the Bannon-fueled White House obsession with the “Deep State”: America’s spy bureaus have made themselves enemies of Trump by leaking like a sieve, therefore they can blamed for anything — false-flag operations against Russia, turning Trump’s toaster into a microphone to listen in on him during the campaign, you name it. Conway’s just feeding the “Deep State” paranoia here. The “spy microwave” answer is the flip side of Trump tweeting a few weeks ago that “any negative polls are fake news.” The point of the latter is to nudge supporters not to believe anything that reflects badly on him; the point of the former is to nudge them to believe anything he says, even if it requires a logical stretch. If the CIA can turn a microwave into a camera (did even Wikileaks claim that, by the way?) then maybe they did turn Trump’s microwave into a camera, and therefore his claim about wiretapping might be true and we’d never know. She had to back off once Stephanopoulos et al. started pressing her on it, but the original comment about microwaves is out there, and will inevitably float across Trump’s TV and the TVs of many fans. It’s all about bolstering his credibility and damaging the credibility of the intel bureaus. And it’ll work.