Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He received a private briefing on the investigation into his campaign's collusion with Russia from the chair of the congressional committee leading the investigation.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, made an unexpected trip to the White House today in order to personally brief Trump on evidence that Nunes said showed that Trump campaign officials' conversations had been "incidentally collected" on legal wiretaps for unrelated criminal investigations. Trump, who has been casting about for any evidence to support his claim that President Obama ordered him surveilled, immediately declared himself "vindicated."

However, there are two problems with Trump's framing of events. First, the fact that Trump campaign officials were talking with the subjects of unrelated foreign surveillance warrants--foreigners under investigation or suspicion by federal law enforcement--doesn't exonerate anyone, and doesn't implicate the Obama Justice Department in any wrong doing. Indeed, when there is a valid FISA wiretap warrant, listening in on such conversations is exactly what the FBI is supposed to do.

Second, Nunes--a Trump transition team member who has vigorously denied the need for an independent investigator into the Trump-Russia connection--was presenting Trump with information that he withheld with other members of the Intelligence Committee, including Democrats. In essence, Trump received an update into the progress of an ongoing investigation into himself and his administration from the political ally in charge of it.

How is this a bad thing?

  • Trump campaign officials being caught by wiretaps on different suspicious persons doesn't "vindicate" or in any way support Trump's claim that he was being wiretapped.
  • It is completely contrary to the rule of law for presidents to  know more about the status of oversight investigations into their administrations than members of the oversight committee conducting them.