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Justice Department undermines Trump's wiretap conspiracy theory

Given the severity of the unhinged accusations, it's now obvious that Trump should apologize for saying Obama tapped his phones.
A doorman stands as people walk past the Trump Tower in N.Y. on May 23, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
A doorman stands as people walk past the Trump Tower in N.Y. on May 23, 2016.

Donald Trump hadn't even been in the White House for two months when he made one of the more audacious allegations ever levied by a president against his immediate predecessor. In early March, Trump woke up one Saturday morning and, shortly before going golfing, told the public that he'd "just found out" that former President Obama illegally tapped his phones at Trump Tower before the presidential election.

"This is Nixon/Watergate," the Republican said. "Bad (or sick) guy!"

Two weeks later, as it became clear that the confused president had relied on a nonsensical report from a right-wing website, Trump nevertheless told reporters he felt "somewhat" vindicated about his conspiracy theory, thanks to support from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) -- even after Nunes had helped debunk many of the key elements of Trump's bizarre accusations.

Perhaps the president can reflect anew on whether he feels vindicated in light of Friday's news.

The Justice Department confirmed in a court filing there is no evidence that Trump Tower was targeted for surveillance by the Obama administration -- contradicting President Trump's controversial claim first made in March.A "Motion for Summary Judgment" filed Friday evening in D.C. district court says neither the FBI nor the Justice Department's National Security Division have records confirming wiretaps that Trump accused the Obama administration of ordering.The document was submitted in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by American Oversight, a government watchdog group.

As the USA Today report noted, this was the first time the Justice Department has issued a formal denial of the president's conspiracy theory. That the DOJ waited until late on Friday ahead of Labor Day weekend -- the equivalent of officials declaring, "For the love of God, we hope no one sees this" -- makes it all the more noteworthy.

In the wake of Trump's original allegation, the White House tried to make the case that the wild-eyed accusation referred to "unmasking" among security officials in the Obama administration, but the explanation never really made sense. For one thing, there wasn't anything controversial about routine intelligence gathering in 2016. For another, Trump targeted Barack Obama with great specificity, accusing him directly, by name, more than once, of "tapping" his phones ahead of the election.

Given the severity of the unhinged accusations, it's obvious that Trump should apologize. That, of course, will not happen. "This isn't news," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Friday night when asked about the Justice Department's acknowledgement.