President Trump has beautifully, elegantly, brilliantly finessed his enemies.
By taking the New York Times at its word that his communications were intercepted last year, Trump has forced the NYT either to take responsibility for exposing Obama’s scandalous activity, or to say that it was lying.
According to Andrew McCarthy (see our post immediately below, Now, President Trump, hit back), the Obama administration sought and eventually obtained FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) authorization to conduct the wire-tapping.
For what purposes can such FISA authorization be obtained? And by whom?
The President may authorize, through the Attorney General, electronic surveillance without a court order for the period of one year, provided that it is only to acquire foreign intelligence information, that it is solely directed at communications or property controlled exclusively by foreign powers, that there is no substantial likelihood that it will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party, and that it be conducted only in accordance with defined minimization procedures.
The code defines “foreign intelligence information” to mean information necessary to protect the United States against actual or potential grave attack, sabotage or international terrorism.
“Foreign powers” means a foreign government, any faction of a foreign nation not substantially composed of U.S. persons, and any entity directed or controlled by a foreign government. The definition also includes groups engaged in international terrorism and foreign political organizations. The sections of FISA authorizing electronic surveillance and physical searches without a court order specifically exclude their application to groups engaged in international terrorism.
A “U.S. person” includes citizens, lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens, and corporations incorporated in the United States.
“Minimization procedures” is defined to mean procedures that minimize the acquisition of information concerning United States persons, allow the retention of information that is evidence of a crime, and require a court order be obtained in order to retain communication involving a United States person for longer than 72 hours.
The Attorney General is required to make a certification of these conditions under seal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and report on their compliance to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Under the FISA act, anyone who engages in electronic surveillance except as authorized by statute is subject to both criminal penalties and civil liabilities.
So if the New York Times was correct, President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, authorized electronic surveillance of communication devices in Donald Trump’s offices, on the grounds that her Department of Justice had provable grounds for suspicion that Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for the presidency, was one side of a conspiracy to mount “grave attack, sabotage, or international terrorism” against the United States – even though there was “substantial likelihood” that by doing so she would “acquire the contents of … communication(s) to which a United States person” – Donald Trump personally or an associate of his – was a party”.
If that’s what she did, she broke the law.
If she gathered any information from FISA-authorized wire-tapping, and retained it for more than an allowed 72 hours, or disseminated it to persons who illegally leaked it to the media, she broke the law.
If any of this happened, then there was a deep-laid plot by the Obama administration to destroy Donald Trump’s reputation and wreck his presidency should he be elected.
But then again, maybe the wire-tapping never happened, in which case the New York Times was lying – not at all an implausible probability.
Matthew Vadum writes at Front Page:
President Donald Trump caused a media firestorm by claiming over the weekend that then-President Obama wire-tapped telephones at Trump Tower in Manhattan during the final leg of last year’s election campaign.
Seeing the writing on the wall, tainted FBI Director James Comey promptly and publicly urged the Department of Justice to reject Trump’s claims. Although it is an attempt at a cover-up, it is an admirably transparent one.
Now the outlines of a Watergate-like conspiracy are emerging in which a sitting Democrat president apparently used the apparatus of the state to spy on a Republican presidential candidate. Watergate differed in that President Nixon didn’t get involved in the plot against the Democratic National Committee until later as an accomplice after the fact. Here Obama likely masterminded, or oversaw someone like the diabolical Benghazi cover-up artist Ben Rhodes, masterminding the whole thing.
Throughout his agonizingly long presidency, Obama serially abused his powers as the nation’s Chief Executive to undermine his political opponents. It might be said that every day of his presidency he committed at least one impeachable offense.
Obama used the IRS to target conservative and Tea Party nonprofits, along with Catholic, Jewish, and pro-Israel organizations. He brazenly lied about it, too. His Justice Department surreptitiously obtained telephone records for more than 100 reporters. … Books have been written about his corruption and many more such volumes will follow. …
A spokesman for Obama, who now lives in former Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart’s walled mansion with Valerie Jarrett on Washington’s Embassy Row so he can pursue his unprecedented, taxpayer-subsidized post-presidential war against Trump, denied Obama ordered that Trump Tower be wiretapped.
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” according to a carefully-worded statement. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Of course, as others quickly pointed out, the denial is misdirection.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote yesterday that the denial “seems disingenuous on several levels”. When a warrant is obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), “it is technically the FISA court that ‘orders’ surveillance”. Moreover, under the law, “it is the Justice Department, not the White House, that represents the government in proceedings before the FISA court”.
McCarthy wrote presciently on Jan. 11: “The idea that FISA could be used against political enemies always seemed far-fetched. Now it might not be.”
Besides, Obama and his gang have generally been smart enough to hide their tracks when carrying out political dirty tricks. The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, FBI, CIA, and NSA, aren’t headquartered in the White House. Obama could wage war against Trump by creating multiple layers of plausible deniability. That’s what a community organizer from Chicago does.
Predictably, former Obama speechwriter [Ben] Rhodes went on Twitter to lie. Replying to a Trump tweet, the Iranian mullahs’ best friend wrote, cheekily, that, “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.” …
Most mainstream journalists were loath over the past eight years to call the exhaustively documented and at times bald-faced lies and misdeeds of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, and HHS Secretary Sebelius. It would seem uncovering government corruption is only a journalist’s duty when a Republican resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. …
Let’s recount what former British Member of Parliament Louise Mensch reported at Heat Street on Nov. 7, the day before the U.S. election.
Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.
Contrary to earlier reporting in the New York Times, which cited FBI sources as saying that the agency did not believe that the private server in Donald Trump’s Trump Tower which was connected to a Russian bank had any nefarious purpose, the FBI’s counter-intelligence arm, sources say, re-drew an earlier FISA court request around possible financial and banking offenses related to the server. The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the second was drawn more narrowly and was granted in October after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the Times story speaks of metadata, sources suggest that a FISA warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.
The FBI agents who talked to the New York Times, and rubbished the ground-breaking stories of Slate (Franklin Foer) and Mother Jones (David Corn) may not have known about the FISA warrant, sources say, because the counter-intelligence and criminal sides of the FBI often work independently of each other employing the principle of ‘compartmentalization’.
… We already knew that days before Trump’s inauguration, it was reported that Obama green-lighted a disturbing relaxation of the rules regulating the National Security Agency’s ability to circulate globally intercepted personal communications among the other 16 intelligence agencies, some of which are more politicized than the NSA, before applying important longstanding privacy-protection protocols. Before the policy was altered, the NSA [had] screened out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information before passing intercepted communications along to other agencies like the CIA or the FBI’s intelligence units.
Put another way, 17 days before President Trump was sworn in, NSA was unleashed against his embryonic administration, newly empowered to share raw intelligence gathered from telephone calls and emails that go through network switches outside the country, as well as messages between people outside the U.S. that go through domestic network switches.
WikiLeaks offered a refresher course in Obama’s treachery on Twitter Sunday, noting that “Obama has a history of tapping & hacking his friends and rivals”, and providing plenty of examples. …
And despite the growing mass media hysteria, there is still no publicly available evidence the Trump campaign somehow colluded with the Russian government last year. Sources in newspaper articles are never identified.
There is not a scintilla of proof of improper conduct.
All we have is the alleged say-so of faceless CIA spooks whose motives are questionable, to put it charitably.
Tom Shattuck writes at the Boston Herald:
In what has already been a historically bad year for Democrats, it just may be that they’re about to lose again to Donald Trump, this time in a high-stakes game of Russian roulette.
The Dems’ Putin smear was supposed to paint President Trump as a friend of the tyrant and beneficiary of Russian meddling in the election. Instead, it is the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party, former President Barack Obama, who may take the fall.
Snooping on a presidential candidate is serious business.
The Democrats want you to think this is a crazy conspiracy theory for an unhinged tweeting president.
But Obama has a rich legacy of using the federal government as a political weapon and it would be foolish to think he suddenly started restraining himself, when he was never held to account by either the media or Democrats in power.
Remember, Obama’s Justice Department secretly subpoenaed the private phone records of Associated Press editors and reporters. It was pure spying.
Fox News reporter James Rosen and his family were wiretapped.
Former CBS news reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was hacked by the government.
Add to these incidents the harassment of conservative organizations by Obama’s IRS, and the mercenary nature of the Obama administration reveals itself.
We’re told Obama administration officials went to the FISA Court twice last year for warrants to conduct electronic surveillance on candidate Trump. Why?
The DNC leaks show that DNC staffers were formulating “Russia” attacks on Trump as far back as last April, with one email between two committee members reading “the pro-Russia stuff ties in pretty well to idea that Trump is too friendly with Putin/weak on Russia”.
Then there is the infamous “dossier” — anonymous reports that Trump campaign members were speaking to Russian officials with some frequency last year and the existence of wiretapped audio. …
The left wants to play the Russia game and President Trump should oblige.
There should be an immediate investigation, and we’ll see where the espionage trail leads.
President Trump has requested the congressional intelligence committees “to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016”.
Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch would be foolish not to be afraid.