Did CNN vindicate President Trump by finally admitting he was right about wiretapping? That depends on who’s asked.
Executive Director for the Council for the National Interest and former CIA Case Officer, Phil Giraldi, confirms that former President Obama was spying on President Trump before and after the 2016 election. According to Giraldi, the White House was directly involved in the decision to spy on the Trump campaign, making the scandal “even worse [than] Richard Nixon’s Watergate” he wrote for The Daily Caller.
In March 2017, President Trump released a series of tweets accusing the Obama administration of “wiretapping” Trump Tower during the 2016 Presidential election. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he tweeted.
On September 19, CNN released a report confirming Trump’s suspicions. According to CNN, the Obama administration obtained a warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to monitor Paul Manafort around the same time that he was hired by the Trump campaign.
Manafort, a veteran campaign manager who worked on the campaigns of former presidents such as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, joined the Trump campaign in March 2016. Manafort was originally recruited to help persuade Republican delegates to support Trump, but he was promoted to campaign manager in June after former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was let go.
This was not the first time Manafort was under US government surveillance. In 2014, the FBI launched an investigation into Manafort in relation to consulting services he provided alongside former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
Manafort’s consulting firm, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, was hired by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted in 2014. Both Manafort’s firm, and the Podesta Group, were scrutinized for not registering as foreign agents while working under Yanukovych. The 2014 investigation into Manafort was eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence of wrongdoing, and both consulting firms retroactively registered as foreign agents in 2017.
While the specific details of the warrant are unknown, the timeline offered by CNN indicates that Manafort was being monitored during his tenure as campaign manager. Further, Manafort was residing in Trump Tower while under government surveillance. Thus, Trump Tower was wiretapped just before the presidential election in an attempt to spy on the top member of Donald Trump’s election team, confirming the president’s allegations.
It’s likely that many phone calls between Manafort and Trump were among those wiretapped.
However, pundits are divided over exactly what the CNN report proves. “Either Donald Trump is vindicated or Team Trump was acting in collusion with the Russians,” Giraldi wrote, suggesting that both conclusions are supported by the CNN report.
Critics of President Trump suggest the fact that Manafort was under investigation is enough to prove that Trump must be guilty of colluding with Russia. However, Giraldi noted that without any actual evidence of wrongdoing, collusion cannot be proved.
“Paul Manafort, who has fully cooperated with the multiple investigations being conducted around Russiagate, is innocent until proven guilty. So is Donald Trump.” Giraldi concluded.