After recently claiming that allegations the Obama administration wiretapped the Trump Tower were groundless, CNN reported new details on Sept. 18 showing that the wiretaps may have taken place.
If true, the new findings would not only mean the Obama administration spied on the Trump Team during the elections, but would also mean that key Obama officials may have lied on record.
CNN cited three unnamed sources allegedly familiar with government investigations into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The network states a secret order was given by a court that handles Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests after the FBI began investigating Manafort in 2014.
CNN claims that the initial surveillance was canceled “at some point” in 2016 due to “lack of evidence.” It adds, however, that the FBI restarted its surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant, which extended into early 2017.
It states the first FISA request was in relation to work done by consulting firms for Ukraine’s former government, and claims the second warrant was part of the FBI’s Russia investigations.
Manafort became chairman of the Trump campaign in May 2016 and left his position in August 2016.
CNN claims that “conversations between Manafort and Trump continued after the President took office,” yet notes that it’s unclear whether the wiretap also picked up Trump in its surveillance.
Manafort has a home in Alexandria, Virginia, and in Trump Tower.
President Donald Trump stated on March 4 that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower and his campaign. Soon after he took office, Trump stated on Twitter, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group founded by former Obama administration officials stated on Sept. 2 that Trump’s claims were groundless. However, it appeared to use disinformation tactics to manufacture its case, by taking information out of context and by using a play on words.
It filed FOIA requests to the FBI and the DOJ’s National Security Division for any records of former President Barack Obama wiretapping Trump Tower. FOIA requests are very literal, and their wording requested information that would have likely implied Obama personally wiretapped the Trump Tower, which is, of course, nearly unthinkable. Both agencies said they had no such records.
Among the many propaganda tactics of disinformation is to use true information to manufacture false conclusions. The lie is then in the interpretation, rather than in the technical data.
The claims from American Oversight were widely covered, including by CNN, which ran a headline on Sept. 5 stating, “Donald Trump just flat-out lied about Trump Tower wiretapping.”
Of course, at the time the reports covering the American Oversight claims were published, news outlets had already widely reported that the NSA had spied on members of the Trump team, and Obama administration officials had admitted to seeing transcripts of conversations of the Trump team that were obtained through spying.
Among the officials who requested the spy reports was Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice. White House lawyers revealed in April that Rice requested to unmask identities of individuals on the Trump election campaign and transition campaign, in spy reports gathered through surveillance.
The Obama administration’s surveillance of Manafort could land former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI Director James Comey in hot water, as CNN claims top Justice and FBI officials would need to have approved the monitoring of the former campaign manager.
While under oath, Comey disavowed knowledge of surveillance of Trump and his team. He told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, “[w]ith respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made similar claims during an interview with NBC on March 5, stating, “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.”
The key questions now are what were the exact dates that the Obama administration had Manafort wiretapped, who else was picked up in the wiretaps, what evidence was used to obtain them, and who gave the orders.