Bill Owens: Wire Taps By Whom And Of Whom?

Mar 9, 2017

President Trump’s latest offering of fake news is that President Obama wiretapped his campaign phones.

Let's carefully parse these words from his tweet, which said there were "reports" that were "troubling" and that Obama was a "bad (or sick) guy." So what is the source of the reports? It appears to be a right wing—not right-leaning—radio show that offered no proof.

We then have on Sunday POTUS and his press secretary calling for a congressional investigation into the wiretapping—yet still offering nothing to support the claim.

The pièce de résistance, with a sprinkle of irony, was Director Comey asking the Justice Department to denounce these statements as false. Why did the director take this position? Since President Trump’s statements imply illegal acts by the FBI, how likely is it, you may wonder, that an investigation will include disclosure of wire taps authorized by the FISA court.

We can apply our deductive reasoning skills to discover why the administration is walking down this slippery slope. Let's assume that the reports of the FBI interviewing members of the campaign and the administration are accurate, and throw in the Sessions recusal—which it appears POTUS objected to—for some spice. This leads to two possibilities for the administration requesting an investigation. First, it could be a clever attempt to get out in the open the fact that the questions posed by the FBI demonstrated there was no illegal activity.  Second, it is possible that those interviewed reported back that they were asked questions that only someone listening to their calls would know, and Trump then has an epiphany—we are in real trouble. The FBI knows about the calls and the substance of them. As panic sets in, Trump tweets—a very sophisticated and presidential reaction.

What is really troubling is the seeming lack of understanding about how this all works, although it has been widely reported. The Russians and others are monitored by NSA on an ongoing basis; if you speak with them, you too get recorded. It seems impossible to me that the bright people in the White House fail to understand this. If they don't, we are in real trouble.

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st and a Senior Advisor to Dentons.

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