Speed Reads

surveillance state?

Trump's wiretapping claim comes under scrutiny — and under fire

President Trump's Saturday claim that former President Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the election received widespread pushback on Saturday, predominantly from Trump's Democratic critics and former members of the Obama administration.

"No president can order a wiretap," tweeted former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. "Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you." Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) tweeted along similar lines. "The president can't 'order' a wiretap," he wrote. "So @realDonaldTrump is either lying, or he declassifed a judicial warrant possibly targeting him. I think we need to know which it is." Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) was less explicitly critical but indicated he'd like "to get to the bottom of this."

Trump did not cite any specific proof in his tweets, but he appeared to be inspired by talk radio host Mark Levin, who argued Thursday Obama orchestrated a "silent coup" on Trump using "police state" tactics. Breitbart on Friday published a timeline to support Levin's allegation, emphasizing a Heat Street report of an October FISA Court request "focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks."

In October, The Guardian reported the FISA Court rejected an FBI application for a warrant "to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials." The Guardian piece referenced the Heat Street account that "the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October" but noted it did not have independent confirmation of that story.

Now, as ThinkProgress comments, if Trump's allegations are correct, they could bring to light an investigation he would prefer not be public. However, a FISA warrant grant is not by itself damning: It is extremely unusual for the FISA Court, often labeled a "rubber stamp" for federal spies, to turn down warrant requests.