The revelation that the FBI wiretapped Trump associates is one of the most surprising facts to hit the public’s awareness. After months of the Democrat establishment and mainstream media criticizing Trump for supposedly unfounded wiretap claims, the president has ultimately been vindicated.
One of the most prominent public officials to deny Trump’s wiretap claims was former FBI Director James Comey. As Breitbart reports, Comey attempted to discredit Trump’s allegations in March during his congressional testimony. The FBI has now changed positions on denying wiretapping of the Trump campaign.
The news that the FBI had indeed wiretapped was broken by CNN, which famously censured Trump’s assertions that the surveillance had taken place. As it turns out, the FBI wiretapped Paul Manafort, who served for a time as Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 election.
According to the CNN report, the Manafort wiretapping was done on alleged grounds of the political consultant’s involvement in Ukrainian elections. A secret order by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorized the investigation of Manafort in 2014.
The original surveillance was discontinued in 2016 due to lack of evidence. But the FBI restarted the wiretapping under a new FISA warrant. These warrants must be approved by top Justice Department and FBI officials.
Sources say this second warrant was granted on the basis of Manafort’s alleged connection with Russian operatives, part of a larger look into accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
President Trump has repeatedly voiced public concern over the wiretapping carried out against his campaign, which he accuses of being politically motivated with the express purpose of discrediting his presidency.
In one widely-shared statement on Twitter, Trump wrote: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
In another Twitter remark, Trump questioned the legality of the wiretapping. “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” These statements prompted lawmakers to ask former FBI Chief Comey about wiretapping on Trump. Comey flatly denied the charges of wiretapping.
“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. However, as noted above, the wiretapping could not have been carried out sans authorization from top FBI officials. It’s likely Comey was aware of the surveillance.
FBI did indeed wiretap Trump’s campaign via Manafort. Should the FBI be able to do this?
It should be noted that even if Comey’s statement before the House Intelligence Committee seemingly contradicts the reality of the wiretapping on Manafort, the former FBI head did not commit perjury. His wording–that the alleged wiretapping was “directed at him” (that is, Trump)–holds up because the wiretapping was technically directed at Manafort, not Trump.
Nevertheless, Comey’s decision to not mention FBI wiretapping of a high-level Trump campaign figure suggests the intention to conceal the surveillance. And if subsequent information reveals that Trump himself was wiretapped, Comey may find himself facing legal consequences.