Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.
Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Questions surrounding Trump’s wiretap conspiracy theory grow louder

There are two broad angles to Donald Trump’s allegations that Barack Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower before the election. Let’s take them one at a time.

The first is that pretty much everyone has concluded that the Republican president was lying. The top two members of the House Intelligence Committee looked into the allegations and said there’s no evidence to support Trump’s claims, and yesterday, top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they too looked into the allegations and reached the same conclusion. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) conceded this week, “No such wiretap existed.”

The Trump White House, true to form, remains defiant.
President Donald Trump stands by tweeted claims that President Barack Obama authorized surveillance of his campaign headquarters before the November election, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday, despite a Senate congressional intelligence committee statement that seemed to counter those accusations. […]

Spicer, in the press briefing on Thursday, which was delayed in starting by nearly an hour, also blamed the media for cherry-picking reports to discredit the president’s claims. He aggressively pushed back on journalists’ questions about the apparent disconnect and read from a long list of news articles – reporting he said was further verification of the president’s claims and “merit looking into.”
Spicer added, “There’s a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on.” In reality, however, literally none of the media reports substantiate Trump’s allegations.

At one point, the White House press secretary literally read a lengthy excerpt from a Fox News report, which alleged that Obama used GCHQ, the British intelligence spying agency, to conduct surveillance on Trump before the election.

When British officials insisted this was both untrue and ridiculous, the White House, according to two reports from the British press, issued a formal apology to our allies in the U.K. overnight.

So, to recap, the president appears to have made an outlandish allegation against his predecessor, which his allies can’t defend, and which led the White House to create a minor international incident with one of our closest foreign allies.

Remember, as far as Team Trump is concerned, this White House is a fine-tuned machine.

The line of inquiry is pretty simple: what are the consequences of a sitting president lying about his predecessor committing a felony? If there are no consequences, what does that say about the state of our discourse and political system?

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All of which leads us to the second angle, which Rachel highlighted on last night’s show.

Trump’s conspiracy theory about Obama isn’t faring well under scrutiny, but we do know Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, made communications that were caught up in surveillance, though we don’t know why.

Congress has demanded information from intelligence agencies, seeking details on why Flynn was surveilled. The deadline for that information is due today. Was it a mistake? Was it legal? Was Flynn the subject of a court-ordered warrant?

This should come into sharper focus very soon. Watch this space.

Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump and Surveillance

Questions surrounding Trump's wiretap conspiracy theory grow louder