The controversy about President trump and Russia is, in fact, a battle between competing conspiracy theories. In the opinion of the enemies of the President, he conspired with Vladimir Putin to win the election. Trump considers himself a victim of a conspiracy organized by Barack Obama in order to denigrate him and to present a Manchurian candidate Putin.
At six o’clock on Saturday morning, trump began a new round in their fight and tweeted this message: “President Obama used to listen to my phone in October, just before election!” Many media immediately condemned the tweet and called it baseless. James Clapper (James Clapper), the Director of National intelligence in the Obama administration seem to agree. “As for the national security apparatus, which was under my control, then it had not carried out any operations to eavesdropping nor against the President, President-elect at the time, nor against him as a candidate or his campaign,” Clapper said Sunday in an interview with broadcaster NBC’s Chuck Todd (Chuck Todd).
The allegations by trump and categorical rejection of the Clapper can’t both be true. Can you? Clapper, probably bases its position on the legal interpretation of the phrase “carried out against the President.”
What if the NSA monitored the calls of close associates of trump, which was not part of the campaign — people who regularly talked to him? In mid-January, the BBC and the McClatchy company announced that on 15 October last year the special court, acting on the basis of the Law on covert surveillance for the purposes of foreign intelligence (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), approved the investigation against Russian activity in the United States, which was focused on an unnamed colleagues of trump’s three of them, BBC reports. In addition, in mid-January, the newspaper the New York Times reported “the large-scale investigation on possible links between Russian officials and colleagues of trump.”
If we assume that the national security Agency really has been given the task to track the conversations of three associates of trump on the basis of the adopted October 15, decisions or other orders, then it is easy to imagine a scenario in which the charges of trump, and the denial of the Clapper is correct.
Who may be subject to this kind of investigation? Let’s try to understand it on the basis of available information. First, it is Roger stone (Roger Stone), informal political Advisor to trump. Second — Michael Cohen (Michael Cohen), the personal lawyer of trump, who in January helped to develop a peace plan for Ukraine, Pro-Russian newspaper named The New York Times. Thirdly, it could be Mike Flynn (Mike Flynn), a former adviser to trump on national security, which in 2015 has received for his performance money from the Russian government. All three had some connection with Moscow, or with her friends, so the idea that they were under observation, it is at least plausible.
Assuming that the observation was carried out, from this we can conclude the following: the government effectively controlled all the talk of trump on the phone with one of his advisors, his lawyer and his national security adviser. Print these interceptions were probably available to high-ranking officials in the Obama administration dealing with national security issues. In such a scenario wiretap trump will be massive, but in this case the statement of the Clapper may still be true — at least in the literal sense — because trump was not the target of the wiretap.
Critics of trump with special scorn for his assertion that it is theoretically possible audition was carried out on the direct orders of Obama. Former presidential spokesperson issued a carefully worded statement in which it said: “Neither President Obama nor any White house staff was never instructed on conducting surveillance of United States citizens”.
From the point of view of bureaucratic procedures, the words of the official representative of make sense — the White house never gives direct guidance on the investigation on the basis of the Law on covert surveillance for the purposes of foreign intelligence (FISA). This task falls to the Ministry of justice, that is, the share of the former attorney General, Loretta Lynch (Loretta Lynch). However, it is hard to believe that Lynch would not have to inform the President about the surveillance of colleagues trump, because such investigation could lead to serious accusations against Obama’s domestic spying.
How realistic is this scenario? At the moment we just don’t know. It all depends on whether the credible media reports about the investigation on the basis of the Law on covert surveillance for the purposes of foreign intelligence, and who was its object and what was its scope.
Trump administration asked Congress to address this issue, and so perhaps we will soon have more reliable information upon which you can draw conclusions.
In any case, we already have enough information to refute the allegations that trump’s accusations are “baseless”. Collected NSA information on telephone calls of colleagues trump — the investigation on the basis of the Law on covert surveillance or just part of the routine surveillance of foreign officials — has not yet confirmed the information about the connections of the election campaign trump with the Russian government. However, the situation gave rise to a flood of leaks that support the impression of the presence of these links.
President Obama has taken at least one step, which can not strengthen this impression. In the last days of his administration he changed the rules of distribution of printouts of the national security Agency, thus ensuring their wide dissemination in numerous departments, but while minimizing the attempts to hide personal data of American citizens accidentally caught by organized observation. Officials justified this step as a protection against the possibility of concealment of information about malicious behavior of Russia. One only this explanation reinforced the notion that trump has been associated with Putin, and the change in procedure provided a new material available to those people who arrange leak against trump.
Critics of the President believe any outrageous assumptions about what senior members of the Obama administration could organize a secret surveillance order to use the obtained data against trump. Instead, they’ll probably ask us to believe an alternative conspiracy theory that trump is a puppet of Putin. However, until there is more evidence in favor of the version of trump.
Michael Doran is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.