Back in March, approximately 800 years ago, Donald Trump tweeted that President Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower, “just before the victory.” That set everyone arguing for months, with the White House pointing out Trump’s use of quotation marks in one of the tweets, and the Department of Justice eventually admitting they had no idea what he was talking about.
Then, yesterday, news broke that one-time Trump Campaign Manager/Guy Trump Knows Who Was With the Campaign for a “Very Short Period of Time” Paul Manafort had actually had his phones tapped by the FBI, and Trump defenders—including Clearly Impartial Truth-Teller Julian Assange—celebrated that something their leader said actually resembled reality. That is, if you squinted really hard and did your best not to think of all the ways it was complete nonsense.
For instance, the way that Manafort’s wiretaps began in 2014, as a result of his work as a foreign agent for a political party in Ukraine, which he’s literally registered as fact. Manafort was then wiretapped again at some point in late 2016, after information picked up in his previously monitored conversations caused concern about his involvement Russia and the election. I should note, here, that FISA warrants for this kind of surveillance are only granted if those making the surveillance request can demonstrate to the court that they have a firm reason to believe it’s necessary. So, the fact that the election-related one was granted is not really great news for Trump/Manafort fans.
Then, there’s the obviousness that this is not what Trump was talking about—for reasons beyond the simple fact that he hasn’t been endlessly tweeting about how right he was—even if his supporters feel vindicated that the vague idea of surveillance against the campaign was fulfilled. The line of defense from the White House was consistently that Trump didn’t actually mean a literal wiretap, because of those pesky quotation marks (which, again, he only used one of the times he mentioned the make-believe phone tap). His surrogates were out on TV insisting that microwaves are spy devices. PolitiFact has a rundown of the evolving defense. If he had really been talking about a wiretap of Manafort, there’s no universe in which he would’ve permitted any of the backpedaling that took place.
But the truly amazing thing about those who feel vindicated by this news is that, whether this is the wiretap Trump was talking about or not, the attack he launched on President Obama was the part everyone took real issue with. This Manafort news does nothing to mitigate that, no matter how it’s interpreted. Trump still bluntly accused Obama of Watergate-esque political espionage and called him a “bad (or sick) guy!”
In fact, if the premise is that the Manafort phone tap was the meaning of Trump’s tweets, then that’s just confirmation that the part attacking President Obama, who apparently has no real relation to the surveillance of Manafort, is unfounded nonsense. If Trump supporters want to remove any possibility that he was actually right about Obama doing something wrong—and, with it, the possibility that he didn’t knowingly launch a completely unwarranted smear against his predecessor—that’s … certainly a unique strategy. I’m sure it’s one of those extra dimensions of chess I keep hearing about that we’re just not familiar with yet.
(image: Shutterstock/a katz)
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