For months, mainstream media reporters and anchors insisted there was no evidence for President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had his “wires tapped” inside Trump Tower in New York City. Now, it appears they well could have been wrong.
On Tuesday, eight months after Trump initially tweeted that Obama had his “wires tapped,” CNN published an exclusive story under the headline, “US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman,” a title that seemingly contradicted months of reporting that said just the opposite.
The latest revelations that government officials in the Obama administration listened into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s phone calls also included one other stunning detail – the government snooping occurred during a “period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.”
According to CNN, the Obama administration had obtained a warrant pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct the surveillance. The FISA court order was granted based upon evidence of Manafort’s ties to the former ruling political party in Ukraine.
The FBI began investigating Manafort and his ties in 2014, but U.S. officials had to stop the surveillance in 2016 for lack of evidence. U.S. intelligence officials eventually had the FISA warrant renewed, and the surveillance of Manafort reportedly continued into 2017.
CNN reported it is currently “unclear” whether Trump himself was ever picked up on the surveillance, but the prospect seems entirely possible, if not probable, given that Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman for four months during the 2016 campaign.
Nearly a week later, the mainstream media for the most part have not acknowledged the most newsworthy element of the latest development, which is that the Obama administration had Trump Tower wiretapped during the 2016 campaign and that the government’s wiretapping efforts targeted Manafort, the man responsible for running the campaign of the former president’s political opponent.
Trump’s March 2017 tweet, in which the newly inaugurated president claimed his predecessor had his “wires tapped,” was given Four Pinocchios by the Washington Post. Even so, the newspaper published an analysis by Michelle Ye Hee Lee on Sept. 22, defending its decision to label Trump’s March 2017 wiretapping claim a “whopper.”
Ye Hee Lee wrote that the Sept. 19 CNN story proved nothing because “the report did not say that Obama requested the order, nor that it resulted in the tapping of Trump’s phone lines in Trump Tower.” She further pointed to the fact that both former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey denied there being any evidence for Trump’s claim.
Then, on the same day that the Washington Post published its analysis, Factcheck.org rightly pointed out that “some have cited the CNN story as evidence that Trump was right.” The ”fact check” website went on to wrongly state that the CNN story does not provide evidence that Trump was right.
Beyond these two sources, The Hill published an article Sunday under the headline, “Trump allies see vindication in reports on Manafort wiretapping.” The article pointed out that “experts” still say the CNN report proves nothing, but later acknowledges “it is possible, experts say, that if Manafort spoke to President Trump during the period he was under surveillance, that the president’s communications may have been collected as well — a legal practice known as ‘incidental collection.’”
The CNN story may not be the smoking gun that directly establishes a link between Obama and Trump’s phone lines inside Trump Tower, but the development certainly raises enough questions about what the media once considered an all-out falsehood that it merits further investigation, at the very least.
Did Obama know about the Manafort wiretapping? If U.S. officials did wiretap Manafort inside Trump Tower, why didn’t Clapper or Comey know about it? And, if U.S. intelligence officials had enough evidence against Manafort to surveil his phone calls, did they bother to tell Trump? If not, why not?
These are just some of the questions that need to be asked by the Russia-obsessed mainstream media. But considering they do not take the story in the direction these reporters would like, it’s unlikely to happen.