donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedPresident Donald Trump has again triggered a tsunami with a series of tweets.  Trump went to his favorite device to accuse his predecessor, Barack Obama, of wiretapping Trump Tower.  “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory.  Various news outlets have noted that Breitbart just ran a story on the use or attempted use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to investigate connections to Russian banks.  The story was covering allegations voiced by radio host Mark Levin.

The first tweet stated “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump threatened that  “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“Terrible!” Trump tweeted. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

I have previously stated that Trump’s use of twitter is not as shocking as many have suggested given the long-standing effort of presidents to use new technology to speak directly to the American people.  However, such communications should not take on the character of stream of conscious thoughts or issues that should be first fully examined by aides or counsel. It is also problematic for a president to discuss FISA targets which are highly classified.  Thus, it is a rather odd for a president to opine  “Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

The President has access not just to Breitbart but classified evidence including any and all FISA applications.  (For full disclosure, I had occasion to go to the FISA court when I was an intern with the NSA and later became a critic of the court).  The problem with the President’s question is that the standards for FISA are so low and easily satisfied (with little judicial review) that it is difficult to establish any illegality under the law.

Passed in 1978 as a compromise with the Nixon Administration, FISA allows for “foreign intelligence” surveillance and was designed to evade the fourth amendment protections governing the use of warrants.  FISA surveillance is permitted based on a finding of probable cause that the surveillance target is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. That is manifestly different from probable cause to believe someone has committed a crime.   It is true that, if the target is a “U.S. person,” there must be probable cause to believe that the U.S. person’s activities may involve espionage or other similar conduct in violation of the criminal statutes of the United States.  However, citizens can be collateral to the primary target under FISA.

In 1994 Congress extended FISA further to allow for covert physical entries in connection with “security” investigations, and then in 1998, it was amended to permit pen/trap orders. It has been used to gather business records.

There is provisions stating that a U.S. person cannot be surveilled  “solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Thus, if Trump aides were targeted for political reasons, the surveillance would be unlawful even under the dubious protections of FISA.  There are also minimization provisions designed to excise collateral or protected communications.

Notably, the tweet is likely to take over this news cycle just as the Administration was about to release the long-delayed Executive Order on immigration.  As I previously discussed,  a senior aide is being quoted as saying that it will be delayed again to guarantee that the order “has its own moment.”  Of course, an executive order is not like some debutante that longs for its own moment like a coming out party at Mardi Gras.  It is intended to protect national security and the “moment” (according to the government’s own filing) has already passed.  However, whatever moment was being waited for, it may not come with this latest controversy.

I do consider the allegation of the prior Administration taping Trump Tower to be a matter of great concern but it depends on who was the target.  Watergate after all involved an illegal break in and completely unlawful use of surveillance targeting political opponents. If true, this was done through a legal process.  That does not make it right of course.  Trump is correct that, if true, this should be a matter for investigation.  The government should show considerable restraint in targeting political opponents. The Trump Tower was well-known to be the nerve center of the Trump campaign.  However, we still do not know how the surveillance was tailored, if it was requested or granted.



    1. Interesting link, thanks! (and BTW, I’m very sorry if I messed up what you were trying to get at the other day)

      A snippet from your link above:

      […] In any case, while Democrats have accused Trump of fabricating his accusation that Obama bugged the president’s phones to deflect from the media’s full court press to suggest that Trump’s aides had ties to Russia, it now appears that Trump is pushing back with demands of a similar probe, focusing on alleged “executive power violations” by Obama. While it is unclear how far either probe will go, the stakes have suddenly soared, escalating to the very top with either the current or the former president finding themselves with much to lose, if the other side’s accusations are confirmed.



      Paul Jay, on Real News Network expresses the opinion that between Trump and Obama, there are actually two competing oligarchies.

      Meanwhile, the Intercept has an article by Jon Schwarz, If Trump Tower Was Wiretapped, Trump Can Declassify That Right Now

      Besides the obvious point that is made in the title of the article, Schwarz goes on to point out that there is actually precedent for a US President, in that case Lyndon Johnson, using US Intellegence to spy on the activities of a political opponent: Tricky Dick. It turns out,

      During the 1968 contest between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon, President Lyndon Johnson was attempting to negotiate a peace deal to end the Vietnam War.

      Nixon was worried that if this happened just before the election it would help Humphrey, who was Johnson’s vice president. Recently discovered notes by one of Nixon’s top campaign aides show that Nixon asked him to “monkey wrench” the peace talks. Via Anna Chennault, a top Republican fundraiser, the Nixon campaign sent messages to the government of South Vietnam not to go along with Johnson’s plans.

      Oh what a wicked web we weave…

      1. I should have continued. So Lyndon Johnson,

        […] ordered the FBI to wiretap the embassy of South Vietnam in Washington, which picked up Ambassador Bui Diem communicating with Chennault. (Presidents could and did directly order wiretaps prior to the establishment of the FISA court in 1978 to prevent executive branch abuses of its surveillance power.) The FBI also began conducting general surveillance of Chennault.

        Ultimately, Johnson decided not to use the information (for both good and bad reasons) and Nixon won.

        During Nixon’s time in office, 20,000 more U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese died before the war finally ended.

        1. Hi BB,

          You didn’t mess it up. I’m just not certain if we are actually seeing two different coup factions or one coup,, called by two different names.

          This is an excellent post on past presidential bugging for political purposes. To add– Kennedy, like Nixon, recorded conversations. wikileaks has an extensive list of Obama spying on his enemies and “friends” at their twitter feed. One example was bugging the UN climate change talks.

          I’m curious as to why Trump doesn’t declassify and publicly make available his evidence. There are obviously wheels within wheels going on here. One thing is clear to me. None of these people care one whit about our nation. They are all disgraceful war criminals and mass surveillance junkies.

      2. The difference is the socialists (formerly demcrats) USED to have enough to get elected on their own while President Trump relies heavily on the 40% that voted against Hitlery and the left wing extremist fascists AND voted for full reinstatement of the Constitution They have an uphill climb and are still jumping off cliffs The Constitutional Coalition has the ultimate power of the citizens. Now he’s just seeing to getting done what WE want done and the socialist left can go screw themselves. If it wasn’t for the media they couldn’t raise enough to pay a parking ticket.

      3. Was that Intercept article written by Juan Thompson or one of his leftist fake news buddies? NEVER trust lying fake news. Wise up!

        1. Thanks for the extra input it serves as a good reminder to decent people the other side isn’t decent.

  1. Spicer said they will turn the story over to a house republican committee. We need an independent counsel.

  2. anon,

    Is that backing off? They are going to investigate. That’s what they should have done to begin with. It’s a good sign. We’ll see what comes of it.

    1. It is NOT a good sign that they say they are going to “investigate”! That way they can sweep this LIE under the rug and have no accountability for the FACT that Trump is a pathological liar. It is time for Congress to demand some accountability for such behavior. That ANY person can take this seriously says more about them than anything else. I suppose that if Trump says the moon is made of cheese, we will have to return to the moon to prove that it is not. Incredible!

      1. If Obama and Comey are forced to answer under oath as to why Trump was tapped, there is a good chance that the investigation will broaden and include an investigation into Trump and his cohorts dealing with Russia.

  3. Seems like the Trump administration is backing off this morning. They say they will further investigate and will no longer comment.

    1. Too soon, too soon. His handlers must have given him some K2 to slow his delusional thinking.

  4. anon,

    You are speculating on how Trump came to believe he was being bugged. Let’s wait for the evidence. Otherwise everyone is just spinning things for partisan purposes. I think your idea of holding an actual investigation is a good one. That would bring some actual facts into the public domain.

    1. Sanchez says what we all think. Surveillance on political opponents during an election is fraught with opportunities for abuse. Let’s get Obama and Comey under oath and find out who did what to whom and for what reason. Oughta be fun. Using the FBI for political purposes is damn UnAmerican.

      1. Let’s get Trump and his operatives, Obama, and Comey all under oath and make it non partisan. Let’s find out why the FBI has been looking at Trump’s operations for years. The public deserves to know.

        1. Trump didn’t hack anybody. Let’s get the perps on record before we get the victims. It’s pretty basic police work.

          1. Are you one of those infowar dudes that thinks Obama personally went there dressed as a cable guy?

        2. Go ahead. Do it. Personally I believe like everything else you are too Rhode Island Red to make the effort other than squawking.

      2. Trump has yet to prove he was tapped. Supposedly his counsel is working on it. Apparently, Trump read about it on Breitbart and went nuts.

        1. All the News you need, I recall James O’Keefe used to be a fan of the Fake News All the Time.

  5. When it comes to government, the rules change literally day by day. There is no “hero” just equal opportunity evil. They sell their spI’ll to the public to get elected, perhaps some even with an illusion of what can get done, if given the chance yet still indebted to those that got them there. It’s an “equal evil opportunity system” where government can indict joe schmoe for lying when they someselves create their own truths..that situation is only getting worse via homeland security “wild card clause”. Our government is broken…best example, when a black woman without a criminal record, not intoxicated, not armed yet gunned down execution style with baby in tow over a u-turn with millions to witness in front of Whitehouse and not one person questions..nobody bats an eye. Her lawyer, former decorated police officer and her sister also a retired NY Police Sargeant cry protest, no investigation. .. the Washington police department asks for investigation. They don’t get one, some quit over no investigation. Yet mass media description of crazed momma is put out. Fact is, americans believe what are told…hook line sinker…why question anything. I am so dissapointed…Our government & or mass media will rewrite the truth tomorrow, just hoping for a more palatable version..

    1. Begs the question who or what is ‘the government’ that which was freely elected or that which is well entrenched and dug in so deeply they are never questioned?

      You will find the answer not to the left in any of it’s forms using the definition left = government over citizens and defining it’s parts as we do as both RINO and DINO. In a Constitutional Republic the natural center is the Constitution and not some foreign philosophy whose purpose is known only to a few.

      I found by redefining into something useful. Moving center back to the real center and not the center of the left opened up a new range of thinking. One in which the responsible free thinking independent self governing citizen had a place and withing that grouping could fulfill it’s orignal promise as the ‘ultimate’ source of power.

      Recognition of self and the ability to think and reason. then investigating the nature of things around oneself and deciding are they useful or not and with that assigning a moral value since the first three words make having moral values possible.

      Never find that in a collective doing the bidding of others. Nor the will to do something about ‘situations’ without regard to borders especially those mentally self induced and erected.

      Write your own truth. You do have that ability it only needs recognizing it and using it. Then measure the offered systems and see which social contract offers the best conditions and if none? Create one that others may benefit. I doubt they will be labeled Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative or be a one party two faced collective dictating your ever waking and sleeping moment.

      Think about the social contract without it’s worst features. To me that means citizens over government and government as temporary employees of citizens. Rooting out the weeds not putting up with them. By not fighting a corrupt city hall but demolishing the entire structure that allows it to exist -by any and all means possible using any useful tool available.

      I read a figure the other day of 40%. The amount of the electorate that did just no longer enabling, by taking control and by working at making changes. A work in progress to redefine an ill used word.

      Remember Hillary’s statement ‘we should be up by fifty? That’s where it went. along with the deplorable, the unrepresented, the forgotten – the citizens.

      Let the eradication of the weeds continue. There is no requirement to live under a corrupt city hall nor even retain the structure it has built. We have another but it wants some sprucing up, disinfecting, and using.

      especially it wants ‘using.’


      1. and you may certainly redefine your own observations into something that makes sense. It’s your mind not theirs.

  6. The fact that the allegations Trumpster fired off were first “not acknowledged ” then “dismissed” to “what if, then why” this scenario totally rings of Snowden-gate..finally back to “nah, our government wouldn’t do that, that’s not legal” shows the Alzheimer’s Effect” is real…our american soceity is just “dumb de dumb dumb”

    1. I’m sure that must have meant something to somebody ……or something. Is that a re-hearse-al the daily programming coming up? Never mind it will be changed by the afternoon and again by Monday morning.

  7. I’d like to know the Professor’s opinion on Obama’s EO in January to make sure the information had a low classification and would be widely distributed.
    My opinion was that it was typical of the low brow, sneaky style we got used to with his administration.

    1. The answer is nothing . With radical (aka marxist leninist) reasoning anything said is at the time its said the truth if it supports the goals of the party. It can be changed at any time a greater truth is needed. They are never wrong they must become more correct. All the biggies have that in their books. Lykoff, Carville, FDR, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler etc etc. etc. So OBarfme just follows the party line. do Benson, Bacon and Webster Inc. I think it’s a law office.

  8. I find it incredible that a sane person would take this allegation seriously. This belongs with the 2 to 3 million illegals costing Trump the majority, or the buses bringing in voters from MA, the claim that his inauguration had the most people in history watching, or his claim he got the most electoral votes of any President since Reagan. Of course ALL of the conservatives here believe ALL of those claims despite the FACTS. Which is why they have their alternative facts and universe. That Turley could take such crap seriously says more about HIM than the facts of the matter.

    1. He allowed you on didn’t he? Of course all the neo nazi slash commie liberals here believe the opposite don’t they? Sorry Comrade we don’t serve your party nor the other guys party. We took our country back and neither the DINO left wing of the left (that’s you) nor the RINO right wing of the left get away with much.

      Stupid comments from stupid people without any basis in fact, no reasoning, no sources, no cites, not testing, no critical examination and no sites referenced are treated pretty much the same. With disdain.

      So either pony up the FACTS which you claim to have or go back to your plato-esque other world and useless subjectivist fairy tails.

      FACTs Both sides supported Government Over Citizens which makes both sides nothing more nor less than the left and right wing of the LEFT and a mighty extremist left it is by the time one winds through the myriad of names, titles, misdefintions, redefinitions etc. and arrives finally at secular regressivism changed to become factual), National and International Socialism, and find who? Mostly WHITE ID neo feudalistic aristocracy AKA the Establishment . Socialist Corporatists, Socialist Statists and their kick stand Labor Leaders.

      Which one of the three are you or just a garden variety stooge on loan from the collective.?

      For background go to basic history of philosophy paying attention to the Platoist version and it’s perversions starting witih Kant AND the Aristotelian version A little Econ 101and 102 without resorting to Keynes, and a careful study of the Classical era, the Christian Era, the dark ages, the Rennaisance, Enlightenment and the second dark ages paying attention to subjectivism versus objectivism. Add the development of government by divine right of God to government by self governing citizens and where will you end up?

      Damn a representative foundation of strong democratic principles supporting a Constitutional Republic. Not a progressivist in sight.

      We took our country back if you don’t like it …..let the door hit you in the butt on the way out..

      Citizens OVER Government and Government as temporary employees. Your scientific adminstration system failed and those bureaurats are going to be the next to go find employment….elsewhere.

      Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet but she’s working on a a program Sorry if you can’t get a seat.. All sold out for a while.

  9. Mr Trump, I thought you were the one to keep this Fake Story going. Well I guess your birthers don’t know that old news.

    I have an idea, you be nice and then maybe your birthers will get a clue.

    Then again, I love it when delusional folks try and make a rational conversation. The conspiracy theorists are the best.

    I think the last employment was at the store rewinding DVDs.

    1. Is that the BEST you can come up with. That same old birther spit and all the rest of that out of date crap? Just how scared are you really? Tell you want Comrade … go back to Soviet Russia where you belong. We will stay here. and deal with President Trump. Take your loser candidate and your loser party with you and go find your Nirvana politbureau and all. – or was that reichstag. hard telling with you left wing fascists socialist types. Now if you are done playing stupid for 10 cents a post – get along with you sucks? You aren’t welcome here any more.

      We won our Constititutional Republic back you can take your socialist autocracy and put further up your butt than my Cochran’s could fit.

      Just to be polite ….You are way out of your league and you don’t have many votes left to lose. Seig Me No Heils We don’t serve your party.

  10. If true, this was indeed of grave concern. I hope that more information comes out.

    I think that Trump will always sweat the small stuff. He’ll always include such Tweets as the one about a TV show following up monumental Tweets about the weaponization of the government against anyone who is not a Democrat. That’s a very serious allegation, and he’d better have the evidence to back it up. If true, I hope they scorch everyone involved and get some real change, including in FISA. That little nugget about Schwarzenneger is like a little palate cleanser, of no real importance to the meal. We’re still going to be rolling our eyes at their inclusion in 4 years, as I doubt he’ll suddenly change.

    I am concerned about the allegation of wire tapping Trump Tower. It’s very grim to consider how very much the government has become a Single Party State – IRS, NSA, DOJ, etc being used against conservatives for political reasons. It’s very serious indeed for a country whose very charter was based on maximizing individual freedom as much as possible for the times. I hope we get more information and find out what happened.

    1. If the FBI requested a judge to issue a FISA warrant you can damn well bet this is serious. On the other hand if Trump made this up, he could be n even more trouble for disrupting an on gonig investigation. The usual suspects are huddled at Miralago trying to figure out their next move.

    2. Trump does not want the FACTS or TRUTH to come out. What use will it be to his delusional tweets!

      1. We’re not talking about them we’re talking about your continual changing the subject with lies etc. and inabiltiy to come up with fact one. You are the target by your own choice.

Comments are closed.