A civilization-warping crisis of public trust

Trump’s frothing at the mouth claims this morning don’t seem to be going over all that well so far.

The president, who regularly has access to classified information and intelligence briefings, relied on Breitbart News for his information about the alleged wiretap, according to the person.

Breitbart, the media outlet previously run by White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, published a story Friday outlining actions supposedly taken by the Obama administration to monitor Trump Tower in New York during the campaign. The story, which claimed the moves were aimed at undermining Trump’s candidacy, referenced commentary on Thursday by radio host Mark Levin that made similar claims.

Neither Breitbart News nor Levin cited independent reporting to back up the assertions.

But Mark Levin said it. Isn’t that all that’s required? Somebody else saying it?

“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, also denied Trump’s claims on Saturday. “No President can order a wiretap,” Rhodes wrote on Twitter in a response back to Trump. “Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”

I would like more protection from people like Trump, and most especially from Trump.

Trump’s flurry of tweets sparked further concern by some in Congress, who called on the president to be more forthcoming about his wiretapping accusations.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican who has been a Trump critic, said Saturday that Trump’s allegations suggest that even if Obama wasn’t involved, a court may have seen sufficient evidence to authorize a wiretap — a potentially groundbreaking development.

Ah. That would be interesting. President Bonehead lets us all know that Intelligence people may have evidence he’s been up to no good.

Any legal wiretapping would have been initiated by intelligence agencies, with court approval required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. According to federal law, a FISA court approving a wiretap of Trump’s home or offices would have had to find probable cause that the facility was being used on behalf of a foreign power, or that Trump’s associates were involved in espionage.

Such a wiretap could have been obtained without Obama’s involvement, if intelligence agencies determined — and got a court to agree — that Trump or his associates were acting on behalf of a foreign government. Trump has denied colluding with Russia, saying he has no links to the country.

“If it was with a legal FISA court order, then an application for surveillance exists that the court found credible,” Sasse said in a statement. “The president should ask that this full application regarding surveillance of foreign operatives be made available.”

The U.S. is “in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust, and the president’s allegations today demand the thorough and dispassionate attention of serious patriots,” Sasse said.

Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said Trump had “no evidence” to support his “spectacularly reckless” claims.

“No matter how much we hope and pray that this President will grow into one who respects and understands the Constitution, separation of powers, role of a free press, responsibilities as the leader of the free world, or demonstrates even the most basic regard for the truth, we must now accept that President Trump will never become that man,” Schiff said in a statement.

He seems to be heading very determinedly in the opposite direction.

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