Last night, Tucker Carlson debated a rapidly blinking Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) - a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on claims that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of Donald Trump's administration during the election. Tucker went into the interview giving Himes the respect of an unfurrowed brow, which did not last long. While the entire interview was an insightful sparring match (entire interview here), a particularly interesting moment came when Himes effectively laid out the legal mechanism which would justify spying on members of Trump's campaign, including incoming NSA director Mike Flynn - the fruits of which led to acting Attorney General (and Obama appointee) Sally Yates warning the Trump administration that Flynn had not been truthful about his conversations with Russia, and could possibly be blackmailed. This knowledge, and the leak of the story leading up to Flynn's eventual resignation, could only have been obtained through covert surveillance.
In a response to Tucker - Himes suggested that since it's routine for US Intelligence to monitor foreigners "like the Russian ambassador" who will sometimes "be talking to US persons," it's reasonable to expect that in the normal course of surveillance of foreigners, Americans might be monitored as well.
This was a half-baked answer considering the well known scope and use of the surveillance in question as a political weapon - leaked to various news organizations and spun into half-truths and wild accusations in an attempt to delegitimize Donald Trump. At the end of this partisan rabbit hole, the FBI, NSA, and the CIA have all said that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
On the topic of surveillance:
The Tucker interview goes hand in hand with a well reasoned series of tweets made over the weekend by Michael Doran - Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and an expert on international politics of the Middle East. Doran laid out quite an interesting scenario - suggesting that while Trump may not have specifically been targeted, the Intel community may have indirectly targeted him similar to a "dolphin "accidentally" caught in a tuna net." (#15 below). Doran also summed his tweets up in a WSJ article:
In mid-January both the BBC and McClatchy reported that on Oct. 15 a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court approved an investigation into Russian activities in the U.S. that focused on nameless Trump associates—three of them, according to the BBC. Also in mid-January, the New York Times reported on “a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of [Mr.] Trump.”
Stipulating that they were, the government would find itself monitoring all of Mr. Trump’s calls with one of his political advisers, his lawyer and his national security adviser. Transcripts of those intercepts would be available to the Obama administration’s senior national-security officials. In this scenario, the tapping of Mr. Trump’s calls would be extensive -WSJ
Below is the first tweet in case you want to jump over to Twitter and follow along - or scroll down and keep reading:
1. Why I Take Trump’s Claims of Wiretapping Seriously: An Essay in 30 Tweets— Mike (@Doranimated) March 5, 2017
Why I Take Trump’s Claims of Wiretapping Seriously: An Essay in 30 Tweets
- All you bright bulbs say that Trump’s claim that Obama tapped his phone is “baseless.”
- He got the idea, you snicker, from an old Breitbart article—or from talk radio. Ha ha ha ha!
- I really do wish Trump hadn’t used a tweet storm to make his accusation. It's grave & deserves a more solemn & judicious presentation.
- And I don’t know whether he'll succeed in backing it up. But I bet he does, at least so as to win the political argument—and here’s why.
- You bright bulbs point to Clapper’s statement and coo, “No wiretapping of Trump took place!”
- This, however, is an overly literal interpretation of “wiretapping Trump.”
- The BBC reports that on 15 Oct a FISA court approved an investigation focusing on 3 Trump associates:
- Let’s speculate that this investigation allowed the NSA to monitor all calls of all 3 individuals.
- This allows us to build a scenario in which both Trump’s harsh accusation & Clapper’s categorical denial are true.
- Who might the 3 under investigation be? Candidate #1 would be Roger Stone, Trump's informal political advisor:
- My 2nd candidate: Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, who helped generate a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine.
- 3rd on my list: General Mike Flynn, who unwisely took money from the Russian government in 2015.
- All 3 had some connection or another w/Russia, so a request for a national security wiretap on them is a plausible possibility.
- As a result, Trump’s calls w/his pol advisor, lawyer, & Natsec advisor would be monitored. That's many calls covering a lot of ground!
- Yet Clapper's denial stands, b/c Trump's phone wasn't explicitly targeted. He was just a dolphin "accidentally" caught in a tuna net.
- You bright bulbs'll stand your ground on the technical claim that Trump’s phone wasn’t tapped, but politically it's a losing argument.
- And you'll also say, "A cardinal rule of the Obama admin” was to leave FISA requests to the DOJ:
- Leave them to Loretta Lynch, you say? Someone about as divorced from politics as this video would suggest:
- Come on. It's easy to imagine Obama winking & nodding to Lynch, or sending a trusted friend to whisper a few thoughts in her ear.
- “You have no evidence to back up that scurrilous claim!” you will scream.
- To which I must confess, you’re absolutely right. I don’t. I’m totally speculating. Point to you!
- And while I’m in retreat, let me also concede that Lynch’s meeting w/Bill Clinton was accidental & innocuous.
- But Trump still wins before the court of public opinion, b/c you just admitted 3 key things:
- (A) That Loretta Lynch got the NSA to tap hours and hours of Trump’s calls.
- (B) That she did so just 3 weeks before the election! And (C) That her “natsec investigation” turned up zero, zilch, nada & niente.
- But meanwhile, it "accidentally" generated copious leaks fueling the sinister accusation that Trump is Putin’s Manchurian candidate.
- I predict that if a Lynch “investigation” anything like this scenario did in fact occur, fair-minded people will side with Trump.
- Rachel Maddow will love your arguments, but they will only convince registered Dems, and not even all of them.
- This scenario is speculative. We don't know the facts. They might yet prove you right. But the ground you're on is weaker than you know.