White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds the daily briefing at the White House, September 12, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

White House’s Sanders clings to odd ‘wiretapping’ conspiracy theory

Dan Coats’ tenure as the Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration hasn’t been an easy one. The president has repeatedly ignored and dismissed Coats’ assessments, at one point even siding publicly with Russian President Vladimir Putin and against Donald Trump’s own DNI.

At a distance, it’s been difficult to understand why Coats hasn’t resigned in frustration. NBC News reports today that he very nearly did late last year, after Trump’s unexpected announcement about withdrawing troops from Syria, but Vice President Mike Pence convinced him to stay.

It’s a remarkable report, noting that the Republican president has pressured the DNI in a variety of extraordinary ways: “Trump pushed Coats to find evidence that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him; he demanded Coats publicly criticize the U.S. intelligence community as biased; and he accused Coats of being behind leaks of classified information.”

Each of those are important, but I was particularly interested in the first one.

Twelve days before Coats was sworn in by Pence as DNI in March 2017, Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the 2016 campaign. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” he wrote on Twitter on March 4. Coats would find it was a subject Trump raised repeatedly. […]

Coats found it particularly hard to hide his exasperation with Trump’s insistence in the weeks after taking office that Obama had wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign, according to the officials. Over and over again Trump raised the issue, and over and over Coats told him he wasn’t wiretapped, officials said, but the president didn’t want to hear it.

“It was a recurring thing and began early on,” a senior administration official who observed the exchanges said. “You could tell that Coats thought the president was crazy.”

This is important in its own right, but it stood out for me for a specific reason: the Trump White House appears to still believe the wiretap conspiracy theory.

In fact, just yesterday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke to CNN’s John Berman, and the president’s chief spokesperson accused “people” of having “tried to overthrow the president of the United States.” Asked to whom she was referring, Sanders lashed out at unnamed Democrats.

Pressed further, the White House press secretary declared, “They were in behind the wiretapping. They were behind spying on a U.S. campaign. One hundred percent they were behind it.”

Look, I realize members of Trump World are all excited because Trump’s attorney general told them what they wanted to hear on Sunday, but in reality, the unseen Mueller report does not breathe new life into old, silly conspiracy theories.

There was no spying operation – from Democrats or anyone else – targeting the Trump campaign, and as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has apparently tried to explain on multiple occasions, there was no “wiretapping.”

Conspiracy Theories and White House

White House's Sanders clings to odd 'wiretapping' conspiracy theory