In normal times, it would be extraordinary to see a sitting U.S. president claim that his predecessor had secretly used the U.S. intelligence community to spy on his campaign. Such an allegation would detonate the entire political system. If verified, it would launch another, even larger Watergate, with televised Senate hearings and people going to prison. The foundations of our republic would be tested, and it would dominate every front page, home page and news show for years.
Under Donald J. Trump, it’s just another Saturday morning.
Nobody seems certain what he’s talking about, but here’s a guess:
Trump may just be learning that the FBI had sought and received a federal warrant in October under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), allowing it to monitor communications between Russian intelligence officials and people linked to the Trump campaign. The warrant was sought as part of the intelligence community’s larger investigation into Russian hacking and intervention in our election.
News of that warrant first broke seven weeks ago, but in his show Thursday night, right-wing talk-radio host Mark Levin suddenly seized upon it as the centerpiece of a rather elaborate conspiracy theory:
“There’s a much bigger scandal here. We have a prior administration, Barack Obama and his surrogates, who are supporting Hillary Clinton and her party, the Democratic Party, who were using the intelligence activities to surveil members of the Trump campaign, and to put that information out in the public. Those are police state tactics.”
Got that? The FBI under James Comey — the same Comey who publicly condemned Clinton and publicly reopened the FBI email-server investigation at a critical point just days before the election — is actually a tool of the Obama administration who helped Obama and Clinton spy on Trump’s campaign operations.
As you would naturally expect, the conspiracy theory virus was picked up from Levin and further incubated at Breitbart, and as you would also naturally expect, it apparently then jumped directly to the Oval Office, or more literally to the Trump suite at Mar-A-Lago, where the presidential calvalcade resides at the moment, and then burst out on Twitter.
In his Thursday night rant, Levin demanded a full-blown congressional investigation of the “scandal”, and I’m perfectly willing and even eager to join him in that demand. Let’s go. Let’s put all the Russia cards on the table and see what we’ve got. Having made these explosive charges public, Trump himself has no rational choice but to demand an investigation as well.
In the meantime, though, we’ve got to deal with the fact that we have a crazy man as president.