President Trump’s tweet claiming the Obama administration “wiretapped” Trump Tower was met with derision and doubt by establishment media, which then spent several weeks repeatedly describing his claim as “unsubstantiated” and “without proof.”
On Wednesday, however, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., whose congressional committee is investigating whether Russia interfered with the U.S. 2016 election, said he had been given access to intelligence reports that confirm Trump’s associates were spied on by American intelligence – operating under the auspices of President Obama.
“I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information on U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” he said.
“Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in the intelligence community,” he continued. “Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked.”
Unmasking is the deliberate inclusion of U.S. citizens’ names in intelligence reports gathered for national security reasons, a move that FBI Director James Comey has said only a couple of dozen American leaders have authority to do.
“Fourth and finally,” Nunes said, “I want to be clear. None of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of activities or of the Trump team.”
Nunes, later responding to questions regarding Trump’s allegation, said he had contacted House Speaker Paul Ryan and others to see where the investigation now would go.
“I thought the president needed to know,” the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee explained.
Trump, asked at a meeting in the Oval whether he felt vindicated, said, “I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do.”
Politico reported Nunes expressed confidence that the surveillance was “legal.”
But it did have “essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.”
Nunes also said he wasn’t aware whether or not the transition team members, before Obama left office, were monitored while communicating from Trump Tower.
Politico reported, “Earlier this month, Trump claimed in a series of Tweets that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of the phones at Trump Tower – something Nunes reiterated on Wednesday he had no evidence of.”
The panel is expected to continue its public hearing Tuesday and grill Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh said what’s being revealed now has been obvious all along.
“From September, October, November, December – particularly November, December – and January during the Trump transition with all this leaking coming from sources deep inside the intelligence community and all this, this leaked data that was being reported. There had to be some surveillance going on for any of this to be known, including Mike Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador. So Devin Nunes had a press conference this afternoon. ‘House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters this afternoon that members of the Donald Trump transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under surveillance during the Obama administration following November’s election.’
“Folks, let me tell you what this means. They had to be doing this! This is exactly … I wish I could find it, remember the exact day and the transcript, ’cause I remember … I almost word-for-word said something along the lines of, ‘Let me tell you what I think happened here. I think security agencies were surveilling all kinds of foreign actors, and they end up talking to Americans, and therefore these people were also under surveillance even though they weren’t targeted, and there are procedures to keep those people and what they say quiet, private, undisclosed, what have you.”
He pointed out that Nunes claimed the information appeared to have been collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But that kind of surveillance generally needs a warrant from the FISA court.
“Does that mean there was a warrant associated with it? … No. Nunes is saying Trump was not wiretapped. What Nunes is saying is that there was surveillance that picked up conversations of Trump and his people during the transition. It is not disclosed who was being surveilled.”
But he said the one entity that knows the FISA court’s approvals for surveillance is the White House.
Limbaugh said: “Now, look, folks, I take you back to this Wall Street Journal editorial today comparing Trump to a drunk trying to suck from an empty gin bottle, that Trump is dangerously unfit, dangerously unbalanced. He won’t apologize for claiming that he was spied on! He won’t apologize to Obama. He will not withdraw it; he’s doubling down on it. Turns out — and I think it’s safe to say that Trump’s record remains 100 percent. The things he says generally have happened or do happen. Nunes said he found this on his own going through reports.
“The United States government was surveilling him, and Barack Obama ran the United States government!”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer last week had to fend off claims from reporters that there was no evidence for Trump’s statement.
Where is the evidence, they asked, and what about an apology from him for being wrong?
Spicer explained that the evidence the media demands already is been reported – by the media. He cited reports from the New York Times, Fox News, National Review and others.
Perhaps the most salient excerpts came from a Jan. 19 online story in the New York Times with the Jan. 20 print-version headline of: “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”