The Trump administration just confirmed–for at least the second time–that there is no evidence then-candidate Donald Trump was wire-tapped at Trump Tower in late 2016.
In a 178-page court filing released late Friday night, the Department of Justice noted, “[t]he Government has made two acknowledgments” regarding claims that the previous administration of Barack Obama wiretapped Trump near the tail-end of the 2016 general election.
The latter man famously made those claims in a series of four tweets posted on the morning of March 4, 2017.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” the 45th president wrote. “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
The three remaining tweets expanded on the theory and suggested some sort of legal violation:
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! 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! How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
President Trump’s allegations have been refuted several times in the past. Some attempts to make political hay out of those unverified claims were made by the president’s supporters–and later, the president himself–when CNN reported in September 2017 that former Trump campaign chair and current eight-time convicted felon Paul Manafort was himself wiretapped by the FBI.
That report offered no evidence that Trump was personally wiretapped and also failed to support the claim that Trump Tower was ever subject to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court-ordered wire tap. Trump’s own Department of Justice had earlier confirmed the lack of evidence for the Trump Tower claim in a September 2017 court filing–also in response to a FOIA request for such information.
Friday’s court filing notes two separate instances in which the Trump administration has rubbished the claims made by its own executive. The document reads, in relevant part:
First, the Department of Justice acknowledged, based upon the Congressional testimony of then-FBI Director James B. Comey, that it has no records of alleged wiretapping of then-candidate Trump in Trump Tower by the Obama administration prior to the 2016 presidential election, as referenced in President Trump’s Twitter post on March 4, 2017.
The Department of Justice also notes:
[Second], following the President’s declassification of a memorandum prepared by staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”), and the subsequent release of a different memorandum prepared by certain HPSCI members, the Department has acknowledged responsive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) applications and orders to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, and produced redacted versions of those documents. With these limited exceptions, DOJ has otherwise provided a “Glomar” response, declining to confirm or deny the existence of records for any other FISA surveillance responsive to Plaintiffs’ FOIA request.
Stylized as a motion for summary judgment in response to ongoing FOIA litigation filed by USA Today‘s Brad Heath and non-partisan government accountability watchdog the James Madison Project, Friday night’s filing is essentially a two-fold argument from the Trump administration.
The first argument suggests that questions regarding the inquiry into President Trump’s wire-tapping allegations from March 2017 have already been answered publicly–by the administration itself. And, second, the DOJ argues that disclosing additional information surrounding such questions “would reveal classified information pertaining to intelligence sources and methods.”
[image via Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images]