Trump’s wiretap rant betrays ignorance of the law

Bradley P. Moss writes: President Donald Trump set the political and national security community on fire Saturday morning, starting the day with a four-part Twitter rant alleging that former President Barack Obama had “tapped” his phones during the presidential campaign. Trump invoked the specter of the Nixon and McCarthy eras, suggesting there were “bad” people involved in shady activities. If this latest early morning tirade shows us anything, however, it is that the president has a rather pedestrian understanding of how the law works.

There is no evidence – nor did the president provide any – suggesting the Obama administration “tapped” Trump’s phone lines at Trump Tower, or in general for that matter. Indeed, a spokesperson for President Obama denied he did any such thing.

There has been a growing body of evidence, however, dating back to a Heat Street article on the eve of the election, indicating that there is at least one FISA warrant targeting people affiliated with Trump. That article claimed a FISA warrant had been issued in connection with an ongoing investigation into suspicious activity between a server in Trump Tower and two foreign banks, SVB Bank and Alfa Bank. The warrant allegedly also encompasses at least four U.S. citizens, and includes the contents of their emails and communications.

Since the election, other outlets such as The Guardian, BBC and McClatchy have reported the existence of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into potential financial improprieties between Russian financial institutions and Trump associates. According to the BBC and McClatchy, a FISA warrant was allegedly issued on Oct. 15, 2016, although they indicated the warrant does not pertain to any specific U.S. citizens but rather only access to financial records.

Curiously, none of the biggest U.S. outlets, such as the New York Times, have confirmed this reporting. And what has been left unresolved is a consensus on what type of FISA warrant was actually issued and whether it specifically targets U.S. citizens who are also Trump associates. This nuanced issue is important to understand in order to fully explain the ways in which Trump’s remarks were completely off-base. [Continue reading…]

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