surveillance state?
March 5, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Sunday tweeted President Trump's request for a congressional inquiry into his claim that President Obama inappropriately wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election, an allegation the Obama camp says is "simply false."

As Jon Schwarz at The Intercept notes, the president has the legal authority to declassify anything he wants, so "Trump could immediately make public any government records of such surveillance" on Trump Tower regardless of congressional investigation. Bonnie Kristian

March 5, 2017

President Trump's tweeted allegation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election is not true, Obama representative Kevin Lewis said Saturday.

"A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice," Lewis said. "As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

Trump's comments came under widespread scrutiny after his Twitter announcement, with critics arguing that what Trump described is impossible or else indicative of suspect behavior on the president's behalf. Horror author Stephen King took a more creative approach, tweeting a short story of the wiretap in which Obama also "stole the strawberry ice cream" and is still lurking in a Trump Tower closet. "HE HAS SCISSORS!" King warned. Bonnie Kristian

March 4, 2017

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. Bonnie Kristian

March 4, 2017

President Trump on Saturday made a four-tweet accusation that former President Obama spied on him in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Trump's tweetstorm appears to be inspired by the Thursday evening show of right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin, who argued Obama orchestrated a "silent coup" on Trump using "police state" tactics.

A Breitbart article on Friday published a timeline to support Levin's allegation, emphasizing a Heat Street report of an October FISA court request from the Obama administration "focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence [was] found — but the wiretaps continue[d], ostensibly for national security reasons." The Breitbart piece concludes the Obama team monitored Trump and then relaxed NSA information sharing rules to foster embarrassing leaks. Bonnie Kristian

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