Though he framed his accusation as fact, President Trump is apparently just as eager to find out if President Obama wiretapped him as the rest of us.
During a Fox News interview that aired Wednesday night, Tucker Carlson pressed President Trump about the March 4 tweetstorm in which he accused President Obama of wiretapping him.
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
“So on March 4, 6:35 in the morning, you’re down in Florida, and you tweet, ‘the former administration wiretapped me, surveilled me, at Trump Tower during the last election,’” Carlson said to Trump. “How did you find out? You said, ‘I just found out.’ How did you learn that?”
Trump responded by citing a number of media reports that don’t actually support his allegation. At most, the reports are consistent with the possibility a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted the FBI a warrant to surveil Trump associates because there was probable cause to believe he or she was acting as an agent of a foreign government.
“Well, I’ve been reading about things,” Trump told Carlson. “I read in, I think it was January 20, a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article, I think they used that exact term. I read other things.”
“I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping,” Trump continued. “I said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about. I’ve been seeing a lot of things. Now, for the most part, I’m not going to discuss it, because we have it before the committee and we will be submitting things before the committee very soon that hasn’t been submitted as of yet. But it’s potentially a very serious situation.”
Carlson followed up by asking Trump why he didn’t “immediately go to [intelligence agencies] and gather evidence to support that?”
“Because I don’t want to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency,” Trump responded. But he didn’t explain how asking an intelligence agency to produce evidence constitutes a violation of any sort.
“But, we will be submitting certain things and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week, but it’s right now before the committee, and I think I want to leave it. I have a lot of confidence in the committee,” Trump added.
After Carlson asked him why he didn’t “wait to tweet about it until you can prove it,” Trump said, “Well, because the New York Times wrote about it. Not that I respect the New York Times. I call it the failing New York Times. But they did write on January 20 using the word wiretap.”
The New York Times report Trump referred to is entitled, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates.” It discusses how “American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.” Barack Obama’s name doesn’t appear a single time in the article.
Trump later said Fox News host Bret Baier’s discussion of reporting related to the Times story made him “feel very confident” about the veracity of his March 4 tweets.
But on March 7, the New York Times reported that while Trump “was in high spirits after he fired off the posts,” later in the day “he appeared to realize he had gone too far.”
“In other conversations that afternoon, the president sounded uncertain of the procedure for obtaining a warrant for secret wiretaps on an American citizen,” the Times reported. “Mr. Trump also canvassed some aides and associates about whether an investigator, even one outside the government, could substantiate his charge.”
Though the FBI reportedly wanted the Department of Justice to publicly deny Trump’s accusation, the DOJ hasn’t yet done so. On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vowed that the Senate Judiciary Committee will obstruct the nomination of Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general until the FBI provides some answers during a briefing.
“If it’s not true, just tell me it’s not true,” Graham said on the Today show. “Why is it taking so long to get the answer? So I have no evidence of it, I’m suspicious of it, but now I’m getting concerned because it’s taking so long.”
Since Trump first made the wiretapping accusation on March 4, Trump’s staff has flailed to justify his tweets, at various times points citing classified intelligence, media reports, and even the possibility Obama might’ve used cameras in microwaves to spy on Trump. But they’ve never provided any evidence.
During a news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked whether he believes Trump’s accusation.
“No, we cleared that up,” Ryan said.