Levin absolutely destroys Obama’s denials that he wiretapped Trump
Chris Enloe, Mar 5 2017
During a lengthy appearance on “Fox and Friends” Sunday morning, conservative radio host Mark Levin explained why he thinks former President Barack Obama undoubtedly spied on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during last year’s presidential campaign. Levin spent the first handful of minutes, nearly half the interview, laying out the evidence for why he believes Obama is guilty, including reading reports directly from mainstream media outlets like the NYT, the WaPo, McClatchy and the Guardian. When Fox News host Pete Hegseth tried to move the segment along, Levin interrupted:
Hold on! Hold on! I need to make the case because the media seems to be confused about their own reporting! The issue isn’t whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign or the transition or certain surrogates, the issue is the extent of it. The evidence is overwhelming. They were so aggressive, they waited four or five months, they go back in October, weeks before the general election, they narrow their request, all of the sudden we have leaks coming out on Flynn. Then we have a “Oh horrible” meeting that took place between Sessions and so forth. And I’m telling you as a former chief of staff to a United States attorney general in the Regan administration, these are police state tactics. Now what did Barack Obama know? He knew everything I just read you apart from one or two articles. You wanna know how I know? It’s in the newspapers! It’s right there! So Barack Obama not only knew this, but he gets a daily intelligence briefing. … Donald Trump is the victim. His campaign is the victim. His transition team is the victim. His surrogates are the victims. These are police state tactics. I’m telling you as a former chief of staff to attorney general, if this had been done to Barack Obama all hell would break lose. And Barack Obama’s statement is just pathetic. Moving forward, to get to the bottom of these allegations, the two FISA court warrant requests from the Obama administration need to be released, in addition to the daily presidential intelligence briefings from the past year being released to Congress. There ought to be public hearings on this stuff, too.
Birth of a conspiracy theory: How Trump’s wiretap claim got started
Brian Stelter, CNN Money, Mar 6 2017
An incendiary idea first put forward by right-wing radio host Mark Levin is now burning across Washington, fanned by Pres Trump’s tweets and a huge number of supportive commentators and websites, even though the facts don’t back up the conclusion. Breitbart News has given the conspiracy theory a name: “DeepStateGate.” Others are going with “ObamaGate.” And Fox News host Sean Hannity is asking:
What did OBAMA know and when did he know it???
Levin’s original idea, advanced on Thursday, was that Obama and his allies have mounted a “silent coup” against Trump using “police state” tactics. Levin cherry-picked news stories that supported his thesis and omitted information that cut against it. The next day, Rush Limbaugh echoed Levin’s “silent coup” language, and Breitbart columnist Joel Pollak published an “expanded version of that case.” That’s how the idea reached Trump’s radar. The Breitbart article “circulated” in the West Wing, a White House official told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, and the information “infuriated” Trump. To be clear, Levin and Limbaugh and Pollak didn’t publish any original reporting. They merely claimed to have connected some dots. The president’s Tweetstorm on Saturday morning went even further than Levin and Pollak’s opinion pieces. Trump alleged that “Obama was tapping my phones in October,” just before Election Day, adding that he “just found out” about it. There is no evidence to back up this theory. While the government has been investigating Russian attempts to interfere with the election, a spokesman for Obama called any suggestion that Obama or any White House official ordered surveillance against Trump “simply false.” CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted on Sunday:
Most reporters I know are digging on this. But every current intel voice is saying they know of nothing to back up this claim.
Former CIA officer Evan McMullin said on Monday’s CNN New Day:
Pres Trump is taking action based on information he’s receiving from far-right, conspiratorial media outlets. That is highly concerning.
But some right-wing sites are treating Trump’s unfounded claims like undeniable fact. One of the top headlines on The Gateway Pundit on Sunday read:
Incompetent AND Criminal! Obama’s Wiretapping of Pres Trump Icing on the Cake of Worst Pres Ever!
Other sites are taking a different tack, downplaying the severity of the president’s charges against his predecessor. Levin and Pollak’s opinion pieces relied heavily on anonymously sourced reports from the BBC, the Guardian and the new Murdoch-owned conservative outlet Heat Street about requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from June and Oct 2016. WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler said these are “sketchy, anonymously sourced reports.” CNN has not been able to confirm them. But those reports, alleging efforts by the FBI to monitor Trump associates with suspected ties to Russia, became the basis of the conspiracy theory. Trump genuinely believes the reports, according to Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, who said he spoke with the president twice on Saturday in Florida. Ruddy said in an email message on Sunday:
He is very confident he will be proven right, said the first FISA was rejected, second one approved. He seemed to know the whole trails of the FISA actions and was recounting them to me.
This description matches what Breitbart reported on Friday. Pollak posted a story on Sunday night that reflected the weekend’s successful reframing:
The spotlight is now on Pres Obama and his administration’s alleged surveillance of the Trump campaign, as well as his aides’ reported efforts to spread damaging information about Trump.
Levin continued to press the case on Sunday through an appearance on Fox and a steady stream of social media posts. He dismissed skeptical news reports as “fake news” and insulted individual journalists who disagreed with him. In an email conversation with CNN Money, Levin asserted:
The public record is damning of the Obama administration. It was investigating the campaign of a presidential candidate of an opposing party during the course of the campaign. Its use of FISA, loosening of NSA distribution requirements, husbanding and protecting information at the behest of White House staff on the way out the door, and recent leaks of confidential and perhaps classified information is extraordinary. Everything I just said is based on media reports, including and especially the NYT. It’s time to get to the bottom of the extent of what took place in the Obama administration and who was involved. If Obama had no idea about any of this, then he must not have read the newspapers during his presidency, since some of it was public while he was president.
Open letter to CNN’s Brian Stelter, you are thoroughly dishonest.
Mark Levin, Mar 6 2017
Did you listen to my show on Thursday, before Pres Trump tweeted? Did you watch my appearance on Fox and Friends Sunday morning? I know you are ticked I did not appear on your show, despite your numerous requests. Your ad hominem attacks about “right wing” radio host and conspiracy theory stuff … incredible. I simply put together the stories that YOUR profession reported, on the public record. Do you deny there were two FISA applications? Do you deny the first was turned down? Do you deny the second was approved? It’s called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It is about surveillance. The fact that we cannot discern all the details because of the secrecy, except for what the media have revealed and selective leaks by the government, should cause you to want to know more, not to trash those who point it out. And yes, we can make several logical implications based on events and experience. A FISA application is a big deal. One, or two in this case, that involve campaign surrogates, or a server or computer related to a candidate or campaign, etc., is a big deal. Pres Obama’s statement is not a definitive statement of anything, other than he, personally, did not order a wiretap, which I never claimed. But that does not mean he was unaware of surveillance activity by several of his departments, even through routine reports to the president, such as the Daily Intel Briefing or information conveyed to him or his staff via the DoJ re the FBI counter-intelligence activities. As for Clapper, despite his past dissembling before Congress, he may not have been aware of what was taking place since the FBI counter-intel operation reportedly sought the warrant. The Daily Intel Briefing might provide useful information in that regard as well. Of course, the release of the FISA applications would also shed a lot of light on events, assuming YOU believe reports that they were filed. Furthermore, Clapper has said, as recently as yesterday, that no connections between the Russians and the Trump campaign have been found. I am extremely critical of Russia, Putin, and the efforts to influence our election, although I do not believe they succeeded. That said, how would Clapper know of no connections if he, as former Director of National Intelligence, didn’t look? On what is that based? Your lack of curiosity and dishonesty about such matters and in dealing with me demean you and your profession. You are free to circulate this communication to whomever you wish, as I am making it public.
FBI Director James Comey was ‘incredulous’ over Trump’s tweets
Pamela Brown, Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Mar 7 2017
FBI Director James Comey was “incredulous” over the weekend after Pres Trump’s allegation via Twitter that former Pres Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones during the campaign, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. The source said Comey was concerned that the allegation would make the FBI look bad, and that concern was part of what prompted the FBI director to have his staff reach out to staff at the DoJ asking them to knock down the allegation. The source said Comey felt “institutionally he has to push back on this” because the magnitude of the allegations that Comey knows not to be true. Over the weekend, senior-level officials within the FBI reached out to career personnel at the DoJ to try to clear up reports that Obama wiretapped Trump’s phone, an official told CNN. Part of the discussion was the FBI asking for DoJ to publicly knock down the allegations, which so far DoJ has not done. Comey was aware of those discussions, the official said, but Comey himself did not reach out to DoJ over the weekend. Comey was frustrated that his request for DoJ to knock down the story went unanswered over the weekend, according to the source familiar with the matter, and the FBI director is still trying to figure an appropriate channel for the FBI and DOJ to formally come out and say the allegations are not true. The source said:
He might come out and say only time will tell, but right now they should be in the exact same place and they’re not. Does he know of possibility there might be a confrontation and (he could) be fired by the President? Sure! Does he worry about it? No!
On CNN Situation Room, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Trump must have evidence of his wiretap claims, and Comey should turn the allegations over to “an investigative arm” to get to the truth of what happened. Kelly said:
Jim Comey is an honorable guy, and so is the POTUS, and the POTUS must have his reasons.
Sean Spicer said Monday that he’s “almost 100% certain” that Trump and Comey haven’t spoken since the latter made the wiretap allegations, but stopped short of saying definitively that Trump retains confidence in his FBI director, saying only:
There’s nothing that I have been told by him that would lead me to to believe that anything is different than what it was prior. There’s no question that something (some sort of wiretap) happened.
Later, asked twice by CNN’s Sara Murray in an interview about Trump’s feelings toward Comey, Spicer again demurred, saying:
I haven’t asked him that yet. Obviously he’s focused today first and foremost on this effort to keep the country safe.
Spicer said he would let Comey speak for himself when it comes to his potential concerns about Trump’s allegations of wiretapping.