Donald Trump's "Proof" Of Obama Wiretapping Is A Flimsy Distraction From The Real Issues
By now, you've probably seen or read the tweets: On Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted allegations that the Obama administration set up wiretaps in Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election between Trump and Hillary Clinton. An Obama spokesperson called the allegations "simply false." Since the allegations went public, Trump's tweets have begged the question of evidence — but it seems that Trump's evidence of the Obama wiretapping incident is flimsy, at best.
Trump's tweets did not point to any evidence. On Sunday, a statement from the White House called for a congressional investigation into the Obama administration's alleged surveillance activities. The statement, among other things, did point to some sort of "proof." The Washington Post has perhaps the best explanation of the Trump administration's evidence, and it goes like this:
According to the Post's Fact Checker team, the White House pointed to various news articles, including reports from the BBC, Heat St., The New York Times, and Fox News. Together, the articles seem to indicate that the Obama administration allegedly submitted two requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA) to monitor communications from two Russian banks. These banks may or may not have had connections to Trump, but, according to the BBC, the requests did not name Trump or his associates.
However, the Post also noted that The Guardian, a source not identified by the White House, had not been able to confirm both FISA requests. The Post itself was not able to confirm the FISA requests. To put it simply, the White House has called for an investigation, and Trump has made serious allegations, based on flimsy reports that could be true, but remain very much unconfirmed. Even if the Obama administration made the surveillance requests that Trump believes they did, the administration may not have named Trump or his company in its request. Finally, it's not clear that the surveillance that Trump alleged ever took place.
You could give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt: If the facts are unclear, why not call for an investigation to make them clearer? Alternatively, you could also hold Trump accountable for his tweets: Why make such massive, potentially damaging allegations about your predecessor without supplying any firm evidence to back them up? After all, it's hard to ignore the irony of the Trump administration using reports from the mainstream media — including the "failing" New York Times, as he says — to support his claims.
For the matter of the alleged Obama administration wiretaps, the Trump administration's calls for an investigation seem to be a cop-out. In his statement on Sunday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that he and other administration officials would not comment on the allegations again until an investigation was complete. In other words, Trump and his spokespeople are off the hook for explaining Saturday's tweets.
For its part, the Obama administration has denied the surveillance allegations. It's unclear if the Trump administration will get its investigation, but with a Republican-controlled Congress that has already been considering an investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election, it seems possible. Ultimately, plenty of things remain unclear after Trump's tweet-storm on Saturday, while attention has been diverted from a number of other important issues, like Trump's controversial executive orders and his joint-session promises with regard to immigration and healthcare.