When President Trump took to Twitter on Saturday morning and accused his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, of ordering a wiretap of his Trump Tower phones during the presidential campaign — which would almost certainly be against the law — his White House staff was among the most surprised, according to multiple reports. Over the weekend, after "a succession of frantic staff conference calls, including one consultation with the White House counsel," The New York Times reported Tuesday evening, aides "decided the only real solution to the presidential Twitter posts was to kick the allegations to Congress."
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to explain the decision to ask Congress to investigate something Trump had already stated as fact, arguing there was a "separation of powers aspect" to the request and suggesting it would be improper for the White House to order the Justice Department to look into Trump's explosive accusation, especially when Trump can ask Congress "as a separate body to look into something and add credibility to the look."
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza translates that: "This isn't about a separation of powers — as Spicer claimed Tuesday — or anything else. It's about Trump tweeting first and thinking second. And a White House scrambling to make lemonade — or at least lemon water — from lemons." Trump was originally pleased with his tweets on Saturday, The New York Times reports:
But by midafternoon, after returning from golf, he appeared to realize he had gone too far, although he still believed Mr. Obama had wiretapped him, according to two people in Mr. Trump's orbit. He sounded defiant in conversations at Mar-a-Lago with his friend Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, Mr. Ruddy said. In other conversations that afternoon, the president sounded uncertain of the procedure for obtaining a warrant for secret wiretaps on an American citizen. Mr. Trump also canvassed some aides and associates about whether an investigator, even one outside the government, could substantiate his charge. [The New York Times]
Trump's aides have seen this pattern before, the Times noted, mentioning Trump's spirited embrace of a National Enquirer conspiracy theory about Sen. Ted Cruz's father helping assassinate JFK. In a hopeful sign for Trump, perhaps, Cruz and his wife, Heidi, are dining with him at the White House on Wednesday.