On a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend, the Justice Department threw cold water on one of President Trump’s most incendiary claims since moving into the White House, that he was the victim of surveillance by his predecessor. Trump’s claims in March that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory” have long been seen as utter nonsense, and in a court filing the Justice Department confirmed that’s exactly what they were.
The Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the FBI “can again confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” according to a Motion for Summary Judgment filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, a government watchdog group. American Oversight had requested, “Warrant applications or records requesting a court order to intercept communications related to candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower, entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign; court orders approving or rejecting those requests; records of those wiretaps, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues.”
Former FBI chief James Comey had already testified in Congress that the FBI did not wiretap Trump Tower during the campaign. And as the controversy over Trump’s accusation grew, the White House tried to change the definition of “wiretap,” suggesting Trump meant to imply a variety of surveillance techniques. “Don’t forget, when I say ‘wiretapping,’ those words were in quotes,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “That really covers, because wiretapping is pretty old fashioned stuff, but that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing.”
“The FBI and Department of Justice have now sided with former Director Comey and confirmed in writing that President Trump lied when he tweeted that former President Obama ‘wiretapped’ him at Trump Tower,” said Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight. “As the president and his legal team continue their smear campaign against Mr. Comey, Special Counsel Mueller and others investigating him, this filing confirms that even Trump’s own Department of Justice does not believe he has credibility on a key element of the Russia investigation.”
The White House dismissed the Friday filing as irrelevant. “This isn’t news. We have already addressed it,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But, as Newsweek highlights, the filing itself seems to contradict those claims:
“Other than this public statement by then-Director Comey addressing this specific assertion by the President, neither the FBI nor DOJ have publicly commented on or acknowledged the existence or non-existence of any FISA, Title III, or other wiretaps ‘in connection with presidential candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower (located at 725 5th Avenue, New York, NY), entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign, whether paid or unpaid, between June 16, 2015, and the present’.”