Almost two weeks after Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of surveilling him during the campaign, journalists and Congressional committees still have yet to see any evidence that it happened. Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson last night to be patient, because the evidence will emerge “very soon” — and that Americans will find “very interesting items … in the next two weeks.” Carlson warned Trump that his own credibility will be on the line:
Trump told host Tucker Carlson that the administration “will be submitting things” to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence “very soon.” The president added that he “will be, perhaps speaking about this next week” and predicted that “you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next 2 weeks.”
When asked by Carlson why he tweeted about the alleged phone tap before producing evidence, Trump said his definition of wiretapping “covers a lot of different things.”
“That really covers surveillance and many other things,” he said. “Nobody ever talks about the fact that [the words ‘wires tapped’] was in quotes [in the tweet], but that’s a very important thing.”
We’ll get evidence to support his tweet in the next two weeks? In politics and casinos, that’s known as doubling down. Carlson pointed that out later in a discussion about his Twitter activity, but Trump remained sanguine and argued that Twitter gave him a platform to set the record straight:
When Carlson countered that Trump “devalues his own currency” if allegations he makes on Twitter turn out to be untrue, the president responded, “Well, let’s see whether or not I prove it.”
“If I don’t do that, I won’t get my word out, because when I say things, the press doesn’t cover it accurately,” Trump later said. “If they’re not going to do me the honor or the public the honor of spreading my word accurately … when I can reach that many people, Twitter is a wonderful thing for me, because I get the word out.”
There’s some value in that to be sure. Ronald Reagan used the breakout of cable media talk radio to get past the establishment media in his day, as well as using his natural charm and stage presence to his advantage. But Reagan didn’t make allegations without a solid foundation at the moment on which to base them. If Trump wanted to expose some illegal or unethical surveillance practices and he was within a couple of weeks of having evidence to back him up, why not wait for the couple of weeks to go by and then offer the evidence along with the tweet?
Note too that Trump makes clear that, if evidence emerges, it won’t be about literal wire taps, transforming that part of the allegation from a double-down to potentially a modified limited hangout. He tells Carlson to pay attention to the “scare quotes” in the tweet, a point that others have raised as well. If it turns out that the surveillance intruded on legitimate campaign activities, then the issue wouldn’t be the method. If, on the other hand, it turns out to be the already-disclosed investigation of the bank connections (which turned out to be a bust anyway), then that won’t really back up Trump’s tweet claims. In other words, stay tuned.
Carlson starts off by talking tax returns with Trump, who denied that he had his own return leaked. “Certainly not from the White House,” Trump replied. “I don’t know where they got it … but it’s illegal, and you’re not supposed to have it.”