Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper on the disclosure of the possible surveillance of Trump campaign staff and a decision to “unmask” and distribute transcripts of those interceptions.  Fox has reported that there is a “smoking gun” linking the Obama Administration.  However, Nunes later went on CNN and seemed to backtrack a bit in saying that he did not actually see the evidence.  Evidence will reportedly be brought to Capitol Hill this week.

On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats.

In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrance, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.

The curious thing about President Trump is that his method and language in communications often mask legitimate issues or concerns. This may be such a case with the disclosure that indeed some Trump officials may have been subject to surveillance under the Obama administration.

Trump triggered this particular jump scare with the tweet on March 4 that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” He followed with such tirades as “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The media pounced and rightfully demanded proof to support such a charge. When it was clear that no evidence would be produced, the media (again rightfully) pummeled the White House for failing to support one of the most alarming claims ever made by a president against a former president.

However, that is when the media seemed to switch roles and fell into a loop of repeating the same accusation over and over again like Jack Torrance endlessly typing “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The media seemed so delighted by the quagmire created by Trump’s tweet that it refused to acknowledge reasonable interpretations of the tweet or the possibility that there might have been surveillance.

One of the most telling examples of media mania was the insistence that Trump was referring only to wiretapping and no other form of surveillance. From the earliest days of the scandal, I balked at that narrow reading. As someone who has written and litigated in the surveillance field for over three decades, the narrow reading is absurd.

“Wiretap” has often been used as a generality for surveillance, particularly among those of Trump’s generation. It is the same colloquial meaning as when the Supreme Court commonly used “eavesdropping” to refer to surveillance.It was not limiting decisions like Katz v. United States to circumstances where people hid in the eaves of homes and listened to conversations within.

There is no reason to assume that Trump meant solely the act of an actual wiretap when he put wiretap in quotations  as opposed to surveillance. Yet, when this obvious point was made by White House spokesman Sean Spicer, the media lit up over the White House was changing its allegation.

Likewise, referring to President Obama as tapping phones can reasonably be understood as the Obama administration, not specifically President Obama, venturing to Trump Tower in some disguise as a repairman to tap a phone. Yet, the media has continued to express alarm that the “facts are changing” when the White House made that obvious point about these tweets.

Now, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (who previously said he knew of no evidence to support the allegation) has disclosed that he has seen evidence that Trump presidential transition officials had their communications monitored during the Obama administration (though Nunes later suggested that he might not have actually seen the evidence of the surveillance).

He also said that the inadvertent interceptions were then subject to “unmasking” where intelligence officials actively and knowingly attached the names of the parties to transcripts and then circulated the information widely within the intelligence community. If true, that would clearly support a part of the president’s allegations and raise very serious questions about the improper use of surveillance. It would be Trump’s ultimate “redrum” moment.

Yet, when this disclosure was made by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, CNN and other news outlets immediately proclaimed that it did not prove anything about the Trump allegations — again emphasizing that he said Obama “wiretapped” Trump’s phone. That is like saying that an alleged victim is not to be believed because he said that some “second story man broke into my home” when the evidence showed that there was no second story on the house and the burglar entered through an open window. The point is whether Trump campaign staff were subject to surveillance under the Obama administration.

Of course, the original tweets were poorly worded and inappropriate as a way for a president to raise this issue. Moreover, the inadvertent surveillance is rightfully distinguished from the original suggestion of a targeting of Trump. However, this would still be a very serious matter if intelligence officials acted to unmask the names and distribute them. The masking of names is meant to protect innocent people from such inadvertent interception as part of the minimization procedures in the surveillance area.

The White House appears unwilling to address the exaggeration and unfairness of the original allegation, while most of the media seems entirely unwilling to admit that there might indeed be an alarming abuse of surveillance rules.

In the end, I suppose our Shining sequel is even more scary than the original because you cannot entirely trust anyone in the Beltway Hotel. It is nothing but jump scares and creepy moments. Citizens are left running in the maze with Danny yelling that in this game “the Loser has to keep America clean.” Redrum.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School.


  1. What this shows is: 1. we do not have a press who functions on behalf of the people. 2. we still do not have any information which shows the truth or falsity of the matter. Trump hasn’t provided evidence to support his claim. He needs to do so.

    The most important thing we do know is that the IC is way out of control. They are sweeping up everything. That’s a police state.

    The MSM is remarkably unconcerned with the actions of their overlord, the IC. As we are being lied to by all sides, we the people need to use our best judgment to think things through. If all we have is innuendo, then there is no reason to credit Trump or the MSM for telling us the facts. This evidence should exist and it should be shown. Faithful reproduction of the powerful’s talking points won’t help anyone.

    I demand the MSM put out their evidence or shut up. I demand Trump put out his evidence or shut up. I further demand that the MSM report on the out of control surveillance which we know is occurring on everyone. I demand that Trump order an immediate halt to this unlawful, insane mass surveillance. As I know neither side of the coin has any intention of doing the right thing by our nation, they can all go to….. I have never seen so many people willing to betray our nation so thoroughly. It is disgusting. Apparently, no one thinks there’s anything to their life other than getting more money and power. It apparently doesn’t occur to way too many people that being true to others, to our nation as a whole is a worthwhile endeavor. That is both sad and horrifying.

  2. Jon Turley says: “The media pounced and rightfully demanded proof to support such a charge. When it was clear that no evidence would be produced, the media (again rightfully) pummeled the White House for failing to support one of the most alarming claims ever made by a president against a former president.”

    Wrong. The media doesn’t do anything “rightly” by any stretch. The MSM is merely a large group of partisan presstitutes. The MSM hasn’t done anything right in decades.

    A genuine, informative media interested in the truth would NOT be demanding proof from Trump. Rather, such a (nonexistent) media would be demanding answers from Obama and his former administration and smacking them across their faces whenever they tried to play their word games, like “no we didn’t tap on any wires, ” doing their version of Bill Clinton’s “it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.” They would also be doing some actual investigative reporting; something they haven’t done for 50 years. “Rightly”? Don’t make me laugh.

  3. Richard Nixon was referred to in the press as Dick Nixon. I do not think that word was fair. Then a campaign bumper sticker came out:
    Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle of a Screw!
    Vote For Nixon in ’72.

    Well, maybe Tricky Dicky was a Dick. Maybe Trump’s accusation that “Trump Tower” was “wiretapped” is false. Maybe Trump’s co-herts who were overheard in written or spoken communications with third parties were in fact doing something sinister. Let us get to the bottom of it before we skim the cream off the top of the toilet.

    1. I always wondered why a grown man with the given name “Richard” – which is a nice enough name – would actually choose to be called “Dick.” Not “Rich” or “Rick” or even “Richie” ….but “Dick.” Why? Why be a “Dick”?

      1. Uh, because English usage was different ca. 1933 when he acquired that familiar and the obscene version was uncommon? “Rick” was modal among my contemporaries, so I’m guessing that the obscene term broke into common use ca. 1960.

  4. Those that seek to undermine Trump’s claim that he and/or his campaign staff had been caught up in a surveillance effort by the intelligence community are actually ignorantly arguing in support of such an abuse of power. It has been proven (not wittingly) that American citizens have been targeted by the IC. It is quite myopic to suggest this is a non-story. I don’t care who the President is; if they are willing to investigate their own IC for abuse of power then every citizen should support the effort. The citizens win with such an effort, regardless of the outcome. By attacking the President, you are actually empowering the IC to do whatever they and/or the President want them to do, without fear of oversight. Is that really the power you want this President, or any President to have?

    1. Being incidentally surveilled while engaging in conversations with Russian mobsters and those that are engaging in espionage is not the same as being targeted. Money laundering is still a crime as far as I know.

      1. “Money laundering is still a crime as far as I know.”

        Is it? After the last 8 years, I’m not clear what constitutes a crime any longer. Or at the very least, what does it take for one to be immune from criminal prosecution? Not everyone gets that golden ticket. So when a ransom is paid to return a deserter, is that okay? When a pallet of cash is delivered to the Iranians, is that okay? When a SoS trades away mineral rights to Russia, is that okay? When the IRS targets conservative groups, is that okay? When an administration lies about the circumstances that led to the death of an American ambassador, is that okay?

        A thorough investigation into the IC’s actions should be encouraged, not shut down for political purposes.

        1. A bipartisan independent commission and a special prosecutor are needed. Nunes is a Trump agent.

          1. “Nunes is a Trump agent.”

            On what grounds do you make that claim? Because he believes there is truth to the claim? Or, at the very least believes the IC needs to be investigated? If that makes him a Trump agent then we need more of them. And that would be a very nice endorsement of the President. Well done Dave!

                1. Franken is not on the Intelligence Committee so irrelevant to this case. We need an independent bipartisan commission and a special prosecutor.

                  1. Dave T….
                    Sen. Franken is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he is relevant to this case.
                    As Clinton patisan who said he would “do anything to get Hillary elected” -USA TODAY, JULY 2016….he could be viewed as “a Clinton agent”.
                    I’ll draw those dots, then tell others to connect them.
                    A prior comment I made did not post, but I’ll summarize it by saying that “the dots”, at this stage, are made up of leaks, allegations, and denials.
                    Given those ingrediants, anybody can come up with whatever pattern of dots they like.
                    In the absence of a special prosecutor, would you view a conclusive repirt by tge FBI as credible?

      2. This “incidental” surveillance had NOTHING to do w/ Russia, according to Nunes. So, there’s that.

        1. Conservative’s warned the Left during Obama’s tenure that they will rue the day they enabled such an abuse of Executive power. The Left’s cries for an independent, bipartisan commission and special prosecutor ring hollow. Connect the dots? Where was that concern during the last administration? Fortunately for the Left, many conservatives (Independents) don’t align with political parties. We haven’t given up on the principles of the rule of law and the separation of powers. So yes, we will connect the dots and demand justice wherever those connections take us.

          1. Trey Gowdy and Daryl Issa presided over investigations forever. They did not want a bi-partisan commission as they would have lost control.

            1. Anon…
              Which is why we also need a special prosecutor to examine Hillary’s mishandling of classified material.
              And a separate special prosecutor to find out why Obama never met with Gen. Flynn when Flynn headed the Defense Intelligence Agency.
              We may need a truckload of special prosecutors to tie up all kinds of loose ends.😏

              1. “We may need a truckload of special prosecutors to tie up all kinds of loose ends.”

                The sooner they unleash the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute ALL violations of the law, the better.

  5. Surveillance is to prevent crimes. War crimes are the most heinous of all crimes. Therefore those who are in a position to commit war crimes must have greater surveillance than anyone else.

  6. I don’t think it matters if Trump is vindicated or not – because MSM and many others will not accept it. Too many people are driven now by hatred. Hatred for our President as well as hatred for the United States of America. Did the Clinton’s or Obama etc. break laws? It doesn’t matter. They are beloved – above the law. Breaking laws is OK – just ask James Comey….

    I don’t think our country will survive the hatred that has permeated our society.

    1. Even if Trump is not found guilty many of those that he chose as staff members could be found guilty. Why did he chose Flynn, Manafort, Page, Stone and other compromised people to work for him?

      1. Any of this substantiated beyond allegations and conspiracy theories? Still waiting for the bombshell. Too bad there wasn’t this much interest in investigating the selling of US foreign policy via the Clinton Foundation pay for play slush fund while Hillary was Secy of State.

    1. Surprising how many are his children,
      “As such were some of us….”
      Ephesians 2:3
      Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. #pedogate #spititcooking

        1. Alex had to say whatever “they” demanded. He partied with Charlie Sheen……”they” have the video. That’s how “they” roll.

  7. Obama set a series of landmines for Trump as he was going out the door. This is part of it. The problem with Twitter is you only have 140 characters to say what you are going to say. You cannot write the Great American Novel.

  8. More important there is to this date absolutely no evidence except the following. A standard snoop which happens every day all day long caught certain peoples conversations none of which had anything to do with anything and neither of which were under investigation for anything and all based on an unamed source which may or may not exist

    BUT it diid show that multiple felony charges are waiting for who ever it was.

    That’s the whole thing in five lines of typing.

    America IS under surveillance and as I hit send for this one it too will be surveilled.

    As I used to advised my friends int he workaday world and now in retirement. Never say anything you don’t want to hear later in a court of law. Not until the civil rights and Bill of Rights are restored and where by the way is all the angst and anguish over that. NOT ONE WORD. On replacing probable cause with ‘suspicion of?’ NOT ONE WORD. On suspension of the Constitution in certain areas of the country? NOT ONE WORD.

    What a bunch of phoneys.

    Stupid is as stupid does .

      1. Fake Obama BUT not fake news. All true. And un-reported or under-reported by the left-leaning sycophantic media.

    1. ….because Obama never rose to the occasion to attend the Scalia funeral in his role as Head of State, and instead he made a lame excuse for not attending that showed the entire world the smallness and the partisan pettiness of the man occupying the office.

  9. Obama took those disgusting nude photos of Milania by hanging on a window washers elevator and pipping through the bedroom window and I assure you that this info came from the same sources that Rev. Pat Robertson uses and is undeniable and he was recording the Trumps phone Sex with Putin. SAD. Now do you see how much sense your idiotic column made?

    1. Keep your day job. Oh, sorry, you’re a progressive, you’re on disability and never did an honest day’s work in your life. (Work is a four letter word.) More time to sign up for Soros working the demonstration circuit.

    1. There is ample proof that Obama is a thug. There is no other reason for Obama to have written an Executive Order, on his way out, which permitted the sharing of classified information in documents after the names of Americans had been revealed in those documents. He wanted the information to be leaked to the press to undermine Trump. Such sore losers. Obama’s political appointees should all be fired. On January 20, 2017 the New York Times published a front page article about WIRETAPS on the Trump transition team. Where did they get that information? The New York Times can use the term Wiretaps on January 20th, but President Trump cannot use the term on March 4th? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post published many stories about wiretaps and surveillance of the Trump’s people prior to March 4th. Those two rags are Guilty. They referred to their ‘Sources’ providing the information. They’ve done nothing but make unsubstantiated claims for the past year. Anyone who trusts the Media or the Government is delusional. The Media is merely the Propaganda Arm of the Progressive Left, including Obama. “Inside Every Progressive Is A Totalitarian Screaming To Get Out.” Believing whatever they tell you despite what common tells you is foolish, and I reject it all. When the puzzle pieces fit together the picture is revealed. Organizing for Action admits Obama is behind it all. He is organizing the so called Resistance, but he, and they, didn’t count on us standing behind the man we chose. Drain the Swamp. America First. God Bless America. Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. Build that Wall. Whoever leaked those names should be charge with the crime and prosecuted, despite the fact that the Left ignores the Constitution and the Laws.
      “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” The left is pounding the table.

      1. Kathleen,….
        -I had read the Jan.19, 2017 New York Times article entitled “INTERCEPTED RUSSIAN COMMUNICATIONS PART OF INVESTIGATION INTO TRUMP ASSOCIATES”.
        “The article states that The FBI is leading the investigations….One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been presented to the White House.”
        Is this the same article you referred to…..or was there another (Jan.20th) New York Times article that mentioned “wiretapped communications”.?

  10. The Steak-Salesman specifically said “President Obama” ordered surveillance and that it was targeted, which is not the same as incidental.

    Second, one would think the Pizza Hut spokesman himself should have actual evidence *prior* to posting to Twitter, rather than seeking justification after making an empty accusation.

    But, at least the fake-university fraudster is busy with work and not playing golf every weekend: especially after all his complaining about such presidential recreation pre-election.

    1. Unlike obama I have not seen trump playing golf to celebrate the beheading of an American journalist or murder of Kate Steinle due to the policies of the first president elected due to color of skin rather than content of character

      1. Orange Kardashian stated repeatedly that he wouldn’t golf because of how busy he would be. His words.

        And last I checked, IS is not yet defeated. And the ACA is still the law of the land. So he’s golfing while campaign promises are breaking.

        Try another pivot.

    2. The fact you say Trump was not the target does not make it so. Readers, especially progressives like you need to know about “Reverse” or “Back Door” targeting. This is how it works. Obama’s CIA or NSA or whatever desire to bug Trump’s campaign. All they do is establish a legal foreign target for whom they need no FISA subpoena, one whom them presume shall communicate with Trump’s team. Now they can legally say the Trump bug was “incidental” and fools like you can parrot them.

      Also, you conveniently ignore the fact that we know, positively, that Flynn’s conversation was leaked, and that leak is/was a felony. If the USA can not and does not prosecute a known felony leak like this, that only weakens this nation and harms it. If that makes you happy, you are a bad person. Also, someone illegally leaked Trump’s conversations with Australia’s President and another world leader. If you think that’s good, simply because you hate Trump, that also reflects badly on you.

      It’s disheartening that progressives are giddy with joy to see hidden, unelected “deep state” operatives sway the nations business and harm elected officials. There is a good argument that JFK desired to severely diminish or destroy the CIA such was his distaste and fear of its unhinged power, and that the CIA assisted in JFK’s assassination as retribution. (Dozens of the worlds best sharp shooters attempted to recreate Oswald’s alleged shots with similar rifle. Every single attempt failed miserably. The rifle was an ancient budget priced Russian army relic, low accuracy and frequently jammed. The shots required ultra high accuracy at great distance on a moving target and three shots in short time frame. The Army rated Oswald twice for shooting accuracy, the first time he did OK, the second time he just barely qualified. There’s no confirmed record of Oswald practicing soon before the date.)

  11. Turley, I realize that you cannot be hurt, that you as a lawyer are a consummate lair, and there fore regardless of how this all turns out, Turley will surface above the slime via the legal masturbation that is the law. However, do you really want to hitch your self to this disgusting piece of filth that is Trump?

    1. Google images for “Libya rubble.” Google stories of the thousands of Libyan refugees who died fleeing Libya since HRC had her CIA and her so-called “moderate Muslim rebels” anal rape and murder Libya’s lawful President Ghaddafi. Then see what Dem. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says concerning HRC and Obama’s war in Syria.

      HRC and her boss Obama are personally more responsible for all the above murder and mayhem than anyone else on earth. The USA has sum total zero interest in Syria. Zero. I say again: the USA has sum total zero interest in Syria.

      Now I don’t think Trump is perfect, not even close. But so far, Trump has not inflicted one millionth the human carnage of your two heroes above. Above and beyond that, you apparently have no idea on earth how God forsaken idiotic you appear typing ridiculous personal attacks like calling Turley a “liar,” and drivel like this: “…do you really want to hitch your self to this disgusting piece of filth that is Trump?” That you call Turley typing a story about Trump “hitching” himself to Trump tells us nothing about Turley, but does tell readers that more than anything else, you suffer terminal progressive disease called “chronic butt hurt loser syndrome,” abbreviated CBHLS.

      We can only hope every single progressive continues to blame everyone but themselves for nominating, as Turley puts it, one of the all time worst POTUS candidates in the nation’s history.

      For all the lies Trump promised or implied, I double dog dare you to top these Obama lies:
      “No boots on the ground in Syria” He put about 300 special forces in Syria, telling us with a straight face that special forces are not defined as wearing “boots.”
      “Close Guantanamo immediately”
      End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Obama said “No scandals in eight years”:
      Tax scandal on Rep. conservative non-profits.
      Mexican gun scandal killed at least one US border guard.
      Libya, etc, etc, etc.
      More whistle blower prosecutions than all prior POTUS combined
      Reporters jailed
      Snowden revelations
      Set back race relations 50 years.
      Biggest income gap in 50 years.
      50% black youth unemployment
      Doubled US debt (while a Congresscritter he decried Congress raising the debt limit under Bush, saying it proved failure).
      Home ownership rate from 30 years ago.
      Employment participation rate same as 30 years ago.
      Etc, etc, etc, etc.
      Worst threat of WW in 30 years
      Worst threat of terrorism ever, worldwide

    2. You say that as if Hillary Clinton is not a corrupt, lying, incompetent mess, in addition to being a “disgusting piece of filth” married to a “disgusting piece of filth.” Please.

    3. Isaac,….
      I realize that you are not capable of pointing out specific objections to statements made in JT’s column.
      Given your limitations, stick with your general accusations and criticisms.
      Your brilliant words and phrases like”Legal masturbation”, “slime”, and “filth” might conceal your inability to make specific complaints about the column.

      1. tnash – lighten up on ole’ issac. He is a former Canadian who knows diddle about US civics.

      1. No actually the real problem is the WORLD WIDE #PedoGate. But keep diverting from reality.

        1. Alex Jones apologized for spreading those lies. Apparently you did not get the news. Maybe you are awaiting the word from Roger Stone and Guccifer.

          1. AJ did not start “the” reporting of child trafficking, proliferation of child porn world wide,

            this has been going on for decades…………wake up.

      2. Dave T.
        ……As far as I know, Mr. Steele (who compiled the Russian dossier) has ducked numerous opportunties to answer questions about the allegations in the dossier.
        If he’s unwilling to answer questions or discuss the contents of his report, it undercuts his credibility.
        Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page have all offered to testify under oath before Congress.
        I don’t know if Congress will oblige, or what they’ll have to say.
        I’m just contrasting those offers to testify with Christopher Steele’s disappearing act.

      3. No, it isn’t. But you are gobbling up the gobbledygook garbage like a good liberal/leftist.

        1. Above comment in response to Dave T saying PEEGATE appears to be more plausible with each passing day.

    4. Agreed! It’s somewhat shameful our host constantly twists the lair Trump’s own words (Obama had my wires tapped) to then fit the later excuses baby trumps staff uses to lessen sheer trump stupidity. I came to this thread having heard the “Turley” name as something to respect. Now, in our house, “doing a turley” means using a ridiculous excuse to support a moronic premise. much like trumpcare/deathcare, Mr. Turley has been an epic fail.

      1. Well, the Trump White House appears to be lawyering up and could use some more help. They hired one of Nunes staff attorneys. The trails are interesting if one likes cheap spy novels.

    5. Yo Turley! Maybe some of Trumps’ Chumps were speaking on the phone or communicating by email or by snail mail with Russian spies and their names turned up in eavesdropping on the Russian spies. And Turley! Bo burley. Banana fanna fo furley! I hope you were not speaking or communicating with some of the same dorks on the Trump band wagon who were also communicating that same day with Russian spies. Joe McCarthy is waiting in the wings and he is a RepubliCon.

    6. issac,
      The more unhinged you get the more I know JT has it right. I trust his sources AND legal acuity far exceed anything you can muster. Thanks to this movie reference, I now have a face (Jack) to put with your name. Actually, your fondness for making up names for your foils should be rewarded. I’ll now simply refer to you as Jack.

    7. We’ve seen the enemy and it is YOU! Filth? The only people that I consider filth are those who JUDGE! Those without sin cast the first stone. I didn’t like Obama, but accepted him as elected by the PEOPLE of this country. Why can’t you do the same? Were you never taught to “suck it up” and accept that this is reality? Come on, carry on, get a life. You get another chance in 2020. It’s amazing to me that people of the left seem to wallow in bitterness because they didn’t get what they wanted. So put on a happy face, think positive thoughts and chill out. Otherwise, you may give yourself an ulcer and suffer anxiety, which can take a toll on your body.

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