President Trump’s Tweet that the Obama Administration had a wire tap on Trump Tower during last year’s presidential campaign set off a firestorm across the Internet and mainstream media: Is it true? Isn’t it? What proof does President Trump have that Obama or a senior staffer in his administration ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower?
Trump Accuses Obama of Wire Tap
Spokesperson Says Trump Is Asking For An Investigation
When challenged to provide proof of these allegations during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that Trump had merely been considering the possibility that he had been wiretapped during the campaign. “He is going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential,” she told guest host Martha Raddatz. She suggested that Trump would like the matter to be investigated alongside allegations that he or individuals working for his campaign had improper contact with Russia last year.
In any case, it may be that Trump already has access to classified evidence that his campaign was illegally wiretapped and is being cautious about releasing it. Sanders was certainly reluctant to give additional details about the matter, perhaps due to orders not to risk leaking that evidence to the press and thus fall into a trap in which the media would have accused her of stepping out of line by releasing sensitive information.
Obama Administration Officials Deny Wiretapping Happened
Not only did Obama deny the allegations, but former White House officials such as former Intelligence Chief James Clapper also issued their own denials of the matter.
“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as [director of national intelligence], there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect, at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign. I can’t speak for other Title III-authorized entities in the government, or a state or local entity,” he told NBC’s Meet The Press.
On the flip side, Clapper did say that he was also unaware of any evidence that definitely proves collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. If there is any, it may have come to light after he left his position as director of national evidence in January.
Wiretapping Concerns Not Historically Unfounded
If Trump has a basis for his concern about illegal wiretapping, it would not be at all surprising if one looks at it from a historical perspective. Past attempts to establish an illegal wiretap includes the Watergate scandal, in which President Nixon ordered the wiretapping of his political enemies. He had been attempting to gather evidence of wrongdoing that he wanted to use to destroy his opponents, but it backfired on him mostly because he had done everything but acquire the constitutionally required warrant. He later made comments that implied that he realized his mistake, too late to help him escape the consequences. Nixon had let his dislike of his opponents get the better of him.
The simple interception of whom Trump may have called would have been a security concern. Normal people might accept that it’s not the business of the FBI or CIA if they call their grandmother to wish her a happy birthday. Intercepting metadata that would have shown that somebody called a relative on her birthday could have counted as an “unreasonable search and seizure” because law enforcement agencies would not have shown that they have reason to suspect that you were discussing a planned illegal drug run with your grandmother.
However, when Edward Snowden released information that showed that federal law enforcement agencies were involved in the mass collection of telephone metadata that included who was calling whom, all his detractors wanted to talk about was that he had done it illegally instead of discussing the obvious constitutional violation! Wouldn’t the American people want to know the truth about what law enforcement agencies might be intercepting? Why, then, would Trump’s wish to know what the Obama administration might have wiretapped and intercepted be any different?
Wiretapping Without A Warrant Forbidden By The Constitution
Clapper says that the FBI certainly did not obtain a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower during his tenure in the Obama Administration. If it had wiretapped the Tower, the FBI would have violated the Fourth Amendment, which forbids unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment specifically states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As it relates to this case, it means that law enforcement authorities could not legally enter a property that Trump owns and attach listening devices to his phone without his permission or a warrant from the appropriate court. As we saw with Nixon’s Watergate scandal, though, overzealous individuals in the federal government’s executive branch may be strongly tempted to violate this amendment with the goal of undermining political opponents. Obama could have been tempted to help the Hillary Clinton campaign counter revelations about emails that she had sent or received during her tenure as Secretary of State by wiretapping Trump’s office in the hope of collecting damaging information, for instance. So Trump may be right to insist on an investigation into the matter so that both he and the American public will learn the truth behind what he claimed on Twitter.
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