The Slatest

A Worked-Up Sean Spicer Argues That “Before the Election” Also Means “After the Election”

Here are two of Donald Trump’s famous March 4 tweets.

The White House has since tried very hard to argue that when Trump said “wire tapping” he didn’t mean actual wiretapping but was in fact referring to surveillance in an abstract sense. Defending this very broad interpretation of wiretapping seems to have been the reason that the White House showed a selection of classified documents to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes; Nunes says those documents may (or may not!) prove that Obama intelligence officials acted inappropriately in circulating information about Trump administration transition figures that was captured incidentally in the course of legal surveillance of foreign targets between November and January. The Trump White House has subsequently pointed frequently to Nunes’ statements as proof that our current president has been vindicated in his March 4 claim.

At Friday’s White House press briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta observed, though, that Nunes’ claims concern what happened after the election, whereas Trump alleged malfeasance before the election. As you can see above, the idea of making this distinction about the basic details of an extremely serious allegation got Sean Spicer really cheesed off. A partial transcript:

If we’re splitting hairs on what day of the calendar it was, that’s a pretty interesting development. If the allegation is, well it was actually on the 1st of December or the 10th of December versus the 31st of October, I think we’re starting to split some serious hairs here. I think it’s interesting that now we’re arguing over the date, not the substance. And the substance is, why were people using government resources, violating civil liberties—potentially—looking into people’s backgrounds to surveil them and understand what they were doing and who they were, to unmask them, provide their names to sources, spread classified information, make it available to others, spread it to places that they weren’t supposed to. I think it’s interesting—I get your question but if what we’re really arguing is did it happen on a Monday or Tuesday or did it happen on the 31st versus the 7th or the 8th, I think we’ve lost focus here.

Of course, as you’ll note by his use of the word “potentially,” Spicer doesn’t really have any idea if Obama-era officials were “violating civil liberties” by circulating information about Trump associates—an activity that may have been entirely appropriate given that several Trump associates are the subject of an active FBI investigation. He doesn’t really know whether the Obama administration did anything wrong before the election or after the election. He doesn’t know anything, and neither did the president, when he sent his dumb tweets that I now spend my entire life discussing. Trump threw a dart, and finding a dartboard that can be moved into its path is now the primary purpose of the executive branch. But hey, it’s Miller Time! See you guys on Monday!