Is Obama Really Behind Anti-Trump Leaks and Town Hall Protests, As Trump Alleges?

Posted: Feb 28, 2017 1:45 PM

Let's begin by stipulating that this premise was presented to President Trump in an interview with Fox & Friends, so it doesn't appear as though he went out of his way to pursue this line of speculation unprompted. Nevertheless, Trump says he suspects that Barack Obama and his people are behind some of the national security leaks plaguing the nascent administration, as well as the (at least partially orchestrated) Obamacare-related agitation at Republican town hall meetings. Is there any basis for either claim? Juan Williams and I tackled that question on America's Newsroom this morning, as the nation awaits the president's first State of the Union-style address to a joint session of Congress later this evening -- via Right Sightings:

A few points: First, there are some reported breadcrumbs about Obama loyalists and holdovers working behind the scenes to undermine Trump's team. The leaks are undeniably designed to damage Trump, so it's not much of a stretch to conclude that some of them are originating from people who remain installed in the executive bureaucracy despite being aggressively hostile to the new boss's politics. Then there's this Weekly Standard column that pieces together some evidence that infamous Obama aide Ben Rhodes and his coterie are still up to their "echo chamber" machinations, feeding a largely-complicit media narratives for public consumption:

In an article on the Atlantic website, a former Obama White House staffer explains why she resigned from the Trump White House after only eight days. Rumana Ahmed thought she should "try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration" she writes, "in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens." But then the executive order suspending visa issuance for Syrian refugees and suspending it temporarily for nationals of seven Muslim majority countries forced her hand. She quit...Hers was the second story in less than a week in which a government official explained that they'd resigned because of Trump's policies. Ned Price, a CIA analyst who worked at the Obama White House, authored a cri de coeur for the Washington Post to explain why his disagreements with Trump's policies prompted him to leave government service. "To be clear," wrote Price, "my decision had nothing to do with politics." What a strange coincidence that Price and Ahmed worked for the same person in the Obama White House, national security adviser for strategic communications, Ben Rhodes. In fact, they worked in the same room, outside of Rhodes' office, as the 2016 New York Times Magazine profile of Rhodes showed: "In the front office, [Rhodes'] assistant, Rumana Ahmed, and his deputy, Ned Price, are squeezed behind desks, which face a large television screen, from which CNN blares nonstop." Among their other duties, Price and Ahmed helped manage Rhodes' "echo chamber" to market Obama's policies.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to detect a whiff of partisan maneuvering here.  As for Trump's musing about the Obamacare show at town halls, there's no concrete evidence that I've seen suggesting that Obama has his fingerprints on that choreography. I'd prefer it if the president limited himself to verifiable facts and eschewed speculation, but that ship has sailed.  I declined to advance the claim on air, but I did list a number of reasons that it might be plausible to infer that Obamaworld has been helping to pull some of the strings: The former president has already made public statements in support of anti-Trump demonstrations, he's made clear that he's going to be a political ex-president, and he's an organizer at heart.  It isn't a ridiculous theory.  Either way, I asked, so what?  What appreciable difference on the ground would it make if were proven that Obama and/or his inner circle really are abetting these protest movements?  Trump supporters already believe the angry histrionics are inorganic and funded by the Professional Left (partially true), and Obamacare supporters obviously understand that the man who signed that unpopular bill into failing law is strenuously opposed to any efforts to undo his signature domestic accomplishment.  Direct versus indirect involvement almost feels like an irrelevant distinction at this point, as do gripes from the Right about Obama's break from tradition regarding affording his successor space to govern without overt criticism or opposition.  Trump has blown up the old political etiquette paradigm in many ways, and he seemed to acknowledge as much in the Fox & Friends clip by shrugging off Obama's supposed involvement.  "That's politics," he said, not quite adding, 'so fair enough.' 

I'll leave you with some telling audio.  You can debate whether or not it really matters that professional organizers are involved with these protests -- after all, some conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity helped coordinate large-scale Tea Party efforts during Obama's first term.  That didn't make those sentiments or policy concerns any less authentic.  But you simply can't dispute that some professional organizing is afoot:

"Outside team will join inside team in the hall after media coverage," liberal organizer James Proctor said in the audio. "So what we'll do is try to dominate enough, because remember … camera people, especially, are looking for b-roll and quotes, b-roll meaning ‘ahhhh' people waving signs, quotes, ‘we really think it's terrible,' and then they are moving on to the next story." A female protester said that she was told by Indivisible, an anti-Donald Trump group of which Proctor is a leader of a local branch, and other sources that they should spread throughout the audience to avoid being clumped in one place. "Game plan number one is to fill as many seats as we can, right? If it's all of us in there and the poor people of Breaux Bridge are sitting behind us, well then tough luck for them," Proctor added. "If we can arrange this so he doesn't hear one sympathetic question, great."

Classic astroturf.