James Comey and Mike Rogers are winding down for the day and looking back on it, I’m not sure I learned very much but I am left with one real question and one suspicion.
I say we didn’t learn very much because we’ve known for a week or more that Trump was not directly wiretapped. We’ve known for about a week that the White House has claimed that Fox News personality, Judge Andrew Napolitano, was their source for the British wiretap story. Today was the first time he’s actually said it, but I think we all knew the FBI was investigating Russian links to Trump at least since Comey signed onto the joint statement with James Clapper and John Brennan saying that there had been interference.
What we did learn was that FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Comey: This investigation began in late July. For a counterintelligence investigation, that's a relatively short amount of time.
— Olivia Messer (@OliviaMesser) March 20, 2017
One thing we learn from this is that the investigation is in the report writing stage right now because the FBI is not going to tell targets of a counterintelligence investigation that they are targets. And they basically just told Manafort, Page, and possibly Flynn that they were. As Flynn had been given the highest clearances in the nation to be NatSec Adviser, there was obviously nothing wrong with him.
But this does beg a question. Yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes hinted that there might have been wiretapping of members of Trump’s campaign. A counterintelligence investigation is, by its nature, going to include intercepting phone and electronic communications and it is going to involve a warrant of one type or another. While we can put aside Trump’s claim to have been directly wiretapped, if a member of his senior staff, like Manafort, was under investigation you are guaranteed that Trump, himself, was wiretapped in collateral collection.
And then there is this troubling statement by Mike Rogers:
Did US intelligence ask British intelligence to wiretap Trump on Obama's behalf? "No sir, nor would I," NSA Director Mike Rogers said. pic.twitter.com/K5mVnWJd5y
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) March 20, 2017
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 20, 2017
— Allegra Kirkland (@allegrakirkland) March 20, 2017
If you lived through 1996 and listened to Bill Clinton wax poetic on the true meaning of “is” a lot of flares start going up.
Fine. Obama didn’t ask British intelligence to wiretap Trump. Fine US intelligence didn’t ask British intelligence to wiretap Trump. But that really isn’t the question is it? The actual question is “was Trump/Trump Tower under surveillance by British Intelligence?” Who cares who ordered it or requested it? Who cares if it was a wiretap on monitoring of his text and email? It is a simple question that could be easily be answered without the qualifiers. Did surveillance take place? Period. Simple enough, one would think. It could easily be that Rogers is a pedant. He does have that look and air about him, like the kind of guy who’d stop you in mid-sentence to correct a grammar or pronunciation error. But the specificity of the denial is… troubling.