Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media while entering Trump Tower on Nov. 14, 2016 in New York, N.Y.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty

White House’s Conway: ‘I’m not in the job of having evidence’

Updated
After two months on the job in the White House, Kellyanne Conway has already come up with some memorable phrases – some of which she likely regrets – including “alternative facts” and “Bowling Green Massacre.” Today, she added to her greatest-hits collection with another unfortunate gem.

The trouble started for Conway over weekend. A week after Donald Trump claimed without evidence that Barack Obama illegally tapped his phone, the Bergen Record asked Conway to substantiate the president’s provocative claims. The White House counselor responded by arguing that “there are many ways to surveil,” including monitoring people “through their television sets” and “microwaves that turn into cameras.”

This didn’t exactly help Team Trump’s case. If the question was about Trump’s allegations against Obama, and Conway’s answer pointed to microwaves and TVs, the response doesn’t inspire confidence in the White House that’s already been accused of having some nutty ideas.

This morning, Conway tried to walk this back, saying she may have been asked about the campaign, but her comments about microwaves and TVs related to surveillance possibilities in general. (Why she’d answer specific questions this way is unclear.)

But as the Washington Post noted, Conway didn’t stop there.
On CNN, though, her phrasing was a bit more fraught. “I’m not Inspector Gadget,” she said. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.”

“However,” she continued, “I’m not in the job of having evidence. That’s what investigations are for. I have said many, many times throughout the week that the president is pleased that the House and Senate intelligence committees have agreed that this should be part of the investigation that already exists about Russia and the campaign, an investigation that apparently has gone nowhere so far.”
Oh my.

First, the idea that it’s Congress’ job to find evidence that the president claims he’s already seen is difficult to take seriously. Follow the logical progression here: Trump says he’s seen evidence of President Obama ordering illegal surveillance; the White House says it’s up to Congress to uncover the evidence; and Kellyanne Conway is glad lawmakers may uncover the evidence she already has access to.

Second, “I’m not in the job of having evidence” is not only an instant classic, it’s also a phrase that’s likely to do permanent damage to Conway’s reputation. If White House officials, whose salaries are paid by taxpayers, are willing to make provocative claims, they have a responsibility to substantiate them.

As the Washington Post’s report noted, “You are in the business of having evidence, Ms. Conway. You are a representative of the president of the United States, and your business is presenting accurate information to the American people on his behalf. Providing accurate information is predicated on having evidence – public or private! – to bolster the arguments you’re making.”

Once West Wing staffers start dismissing the very idea of having evidence to bolster odd claims, they’re inviting the public to discard their rhetoric as nonsense. Why listen to someone in a position of authority who believes it’s not their job to have evidence?

Conspiracy Theories, Surveillance and White House

White House's Conway: 'I'm not in the job of having evidence'

Updated