A little less than two weeks ago, the president of the United States accused his predecessor of wiretapping his phones.
The White House refused to produce any evidence that this was true, but insisted that the president’s statement had been “accurate,” nonetheless.
The White House has also suggested that there was never a formal investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and the Russian government.
If these two claims are both true, then the Obama administration must have extrajudicially surveilled Trump Tower — ostensibly, with the aid of rogue “deep state” actors.
These nefarious implications led FBI Director James Comey to request that the Justice Department publicly reject Trump’s claim. But the DOJ declined to do so.
After word of Comey’s request leaked, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president didn’t accept the FBI director’s denial, explaining that he “wants the truth to come out to the American people and he is asking that it be done through the House Intelligence Committee and that that be the process that we go through.”
On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee said that it has found no evidence to substantiate Trump’s claim.
“We don’t have any evidence that that took place,’’ Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “In fact, I don’t believe — in the last week of time, people we’ve talked to, I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.”
“Are you going to take the tweets literally?” Nunes continued. “And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for his part, told reporters Wednesday that he had never given Trump any reason to believe that Obama had tapped his phones.
But if you think this means Trump will admit he made a false claim, then welcome back from that cave you’ve been hiding in for 20 months — you didn’t miss anything good.
“Wiretap covers a lot of different things,” Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, in an interview that will air Wednesday night. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
It’s unclear whether Trump also stipulated that “phones” can mean “a lot of different things.”
Take him seriously, not literally, is a reasonable instruction for a reality-television producer to give to a production assistant who needs to work with a difficult star.
It is a much less reasonable instruction for a White House to give a global public that needs to interpret the words of the most powerful man in the world.