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The Surveillance of Trump by Obama’s Government: Fact vs Hype

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

On Saturday morning, after months of baseless allegations that he had colluded with the Russian government to steal the presidential election from Hillary Clinton, President Trump had reached his limit.

With just a few tweets, Trump flipped the script on his detractors by doing what no Republican had ever had the guts to do:

He called out President Obama directly and accused his predecessor of having “wire tapped” Trump Tower.

At first, the usual suspects—i.e. those who never tire of grossly underestimating Trump, irrespectively of the frequency with which he owns them—laughed off his charge, claiming that he presented no evidence for it. Yet within no time this began to change as those of the President’s critics in the media were reminded that it is they who had been presenting evidence for his claims not long ago.

The left-leaning Mother Jones, for example, stated in October of 2016 that “several national security experts” maintained that “there is widespread concern in the US intelligence community that Russian intelligence, via hacks, is aiming to undermine the presidential election—to embarrass the United States and delegitimize its democratic elections. And the hacks appear to have been designed to benefit Trump.”

Here’s what appears to have occurred.

Initially, according to Heat Street, because of a connection between a server in Trump Tower and a server for two Russian banks, the FBI decided to determine whether Trump may have committed “financial and banking offenses.” It concluded not only that there had been no such offenses, but that the activity between the servers may have been nothing more than spam.

Back in October, the New York Times reported that upon its months-long investigation of presidential candidate Trump, the FBI found “no clear link to Russia.”

“Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead—which they ultimately came to doubt—about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.”

On the same day that the Times story was published, the unapologetically anti-Trump Slate confirmed both that the FBI had been investigating Trump and that it concluded that there was no wrongdoing.

In other words, the FBI looked into a possible criminal matter and came up empty. But then its counter-intelligence arm chose to reframe the issue in terms of national security and request a warrant from FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Doing so would allow the FBI to continue monitoring Trump, a private citizen, at the time, despite a criminal investigation that should have put the whole issue to rest. Andrew McCarthy explains that while citizens “normally may not be subjected to searches or electronic eavesdropping absent probable cause of a crime,” FISA permits exceptions as long as “there is [a] probable cause they are agents of a foreign power” (italics original).

No one with a straight face could possibly think, much less say aloud, that Trump is a Russian spy.

So, in June of last year—shortly after Trump secured the GOP nomination—a request was filed with FISA to continue monitoring a possible Trump link with Russia (the request is said to have “named” Trump, whatever exactly this means). That the agency had no grounds for its request, that it had gathered nothing from its previous searching, is borne out by the following fact:

In June of 2013, The Wall Street Journal published an article in which it revealed that in 33 years, from its beginning in 1979 to 2012, the FISA Court granted more than 33,900 warrant requests while turning down only 11. It had a 99.97% rate of approval. It’s been that easy.

And yet the FBI’s request to continue monitoring an alleged Trump/Russia tie was denied.

Four months later—shortly before the general election—the FBI narrowed its focus and resubmitted its request to the FISA Court. This time, Trump apparently was not named and the request to continue surveilling an American citizen for whom the government had no evidence of criminal wrongdoing (and the members of his inner circle, including some private citizens, like General Michael Flynn) was granted.

Still, not a scintilla of evidence of impropriety, much less collusion to “hack” an election,” was forthcoming.

Obama, of course, speaking through one of his former spokespersons, denied ever having “interfered” with an “independent” Department of Justice investigation or “ordered” surveillance of “any private citizen.” Immediately, observers noted the carefully worded response of Team Obama, a “non-denial denial.”

Consider: Obama does not deny that a private citizen, candidate Trump, was being monitored by his Justice Department. Presidents can’t “order” FISA warrants, as Obama surely knows. However, only a fool could think that Obama was ignorant of the spying, and it stretches credibility to the snapping point to imagine that this spying on a private citizen and his arch-political opponent, the man who he rightly feared would roll back his legacy, was without Obama’s blessing.

At any rate, it was Obama’s administration and, though he never lived by this rule, the buck does and should stop with the president.

Trump may have spoken (or tweeted) clumsily, but the gist of his charge is eminently plausible given what the Obama-friendly media have been telling us for months. As Mark Levin said, the evidence for Obama’s spying is “overwhelming.” Levin also recommended that Congress should request copies of Obama’s daily intelligence briefings from the past year to determine what he knew and when he knew it.

When Newsmax editor Chris Ruddy spoke to him about Obama’s denial that he had anything to do with the surveillance to which Trump had been subjected, the president shot back: “This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right.”

Given Trump’s track record these nearly last two years, there is good reason to take him at his word here.

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