By Joseph Weber, Fox News Politics
The White House on Sunday called for congressional investigations into its claims the Obama administration meddled in the 2016 election cycle in an attempt to gather information on then-Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in the statement.
(WH Demands Investigation, Calls for Probe into Executive Abuses. Courtesy of Fox News via USA Network News and YouTube)
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
The statement follows an explosive allegation Saturday by Trump that former President Barack Obama ordered phones wiretapped at Trump Tower and also states that nobody in the administration “will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
Trump’s wiretap allegations, in a series of tweets Saturday, and the ensuing White House statement are the latest developments in the ongoing story about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential race — particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin trying to influence the election for Trump over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn submitted his resignation over the matter, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any Justice Department probe, following revelations he spoke during the campaign to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism,” Trump wrote in one tweet Saturday.
Trump also tweeted that a “good lawyer could make a great case of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to election!”
“How low has President Obama gone to tap (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” the president continued.
Obama on Saturday denied President Trump’s accusation that Obama had Trump Tower phones tapped in the weeks before the November 2016 election.
“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president.
Trump made the claim in a series of early Saturday morning tweets that included the suggestion that the alleged wiretapping was tantamount to “McCarthyism” and “Nixon/Watergate.”
However, he could be referencing a Breitbart article posted Friday (*Editor’s Note: See below) that claimed the administration made two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) requests in 2016 to monitor Trump communications and a computer server in Trump Tower, related to possible links with Russian banks.
No evidence was found.
The article was based on a segment by radio host Mark Levin.
On Sunday, Trump resumed his attack that Obama colluded with Russia.
“Who was it that secretly said to Russian president, ‘Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility?”‘ tweeted Trump, referring to what Obama was overheard telling then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012.
(Obama tells Medvedev he will have “more flexibility” after election. Courtesy of AP Archive and YouTube)
Trump also tweeted earlier: “Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?’
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez contributed to this report.
Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama’s ‘Silent Coup’ vs. Trump
Radio host Mark Levin used his Thursday evening show to outline the known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.
Levin called Obama’s effort “police state” tactics, and suggested that Obama’s actions, rather than conspiracy theories about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election to help Trump, should be the target of congressional investigation.
Drawing on sources including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Levin described the case against Obama so far, based on what is already publicly known. The following is an expanded version of that case, including events that Levin did not mention specifically but are important to the overall timeline.
1. June 2016: FISA request.
The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers.
The request, uncharacteristically, is denied.
2. July: Russia joke.
Wikileaks releases emails from the Democratic National Committee that show an effort to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from winning the presidential nomination.
In a press conference, Donald Trump refers to Hillary Clinton’s own missing emails, joking: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.”
That remark becomes the basis for accusations by Clinton and the media that Trump invited further hacking.
(During a press conference, Republican Nominee Donald Trump discussed the email hack of the DNC, and addressed Russia directly. Courtesy of CNN and YouTube)
3. October: Podesta emails.
In October, Wikileaks releases the emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, rolling out batches every day until the election, creating new mini-scandals.
The Clinton campaign blames Trump and the Russians.
4. October: FISA request.
The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks.
No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes.
The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.
5. January 2017: Buzzfeed/CNN dossier.
It purports to show continuous contact between Russia and the Trump campaign, and says that the Russians have compromising information about Trump.
None of the allegations can be verified and some are proven false.
Several media outlets claim that they had been aware of the dossier for months and that it had been circulating in Washington.
6. January: Obama expands NSA sharing.
As Michael Walsh later notes, and as the New York Times reports, the outgoing Obama administration “expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.”
The new powers, and reduced protections, could make it easier for intelligence on private citizens to be circulated improperly or leaked.
7. January: Times report.
The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties.
Other news outlets also report the exisentence of “a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government,” though it is unclear how they found out, since the investigations would have been secret and involved classified information.
8. February: Mike Flynn scandal.
Reports emerge that the FBI intercepted a conversation in 2016 between future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — then a private citizen — and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The intercept supposedly was part of routine spying on the ambassador, not monitoring of the Trump campaign.
The FBI transcripts reportedly show the two discussing Obama’s newly-imposed sanctions on Russia, though Flynn earlier denied discussing them.
Sally Yates, whom Trump would later fire as acting Attorney General for insubordination, is involved in the investigation.
In the end, Flynn resigns over having misled Vice President Mike Pence (perhaps inadvertently) about the content of the conversation.
9. February: Times claims extensive Russian contacts.
The New York Times cites “four current and former American officials” in reporting that the Trump campaign had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials.
The Trump campaign denies the claims — and the Times admits that there is “no evidence” of coordination between the campaign and the Russians.
The White House and some congressional Republicans begin to raise questions about illegal intelligence leaks.
10. March: the Washington Post targets Jeff Sessions.
The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had contact twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign — once at a Heritage Foundation event and once at a meeting in Sessions’s Senate office.
The Post suggests that the two meetings contradict Sessions’s testimony at his confirmation hearings that he had no contacts with the Russians, though in context (not presented by the Post) it was clear he meant in his capacity as a campaign surrogate, and that he was responding to claims in the “dossier” of ongoing contacts.
The New York Times, in covering the story, adds that the Obama White House “rushed to preserve” intelligence related to alleged Russian links with the Trump campaign.
By “preserve” it really means “disseminate”: officials spread evidence throughout other government agencies “to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators” and perhaps the media as well.
In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.
Levin called the effort a “silent coup” by the Obama administration and demanded that it be investigated.
In addition, Levin castigated Republicans in Congress for focusing their attention on Trump and Attorney General Sessions rather than Obama.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016.
His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery.