GOP at odds over absurd White House demand to investigate Trump’s wiretapping lie about Obama
The White House has responded to Donald Trump's erroneous Twitter rant about President Obama wiretapping Trump Tower by calling for a congressional investigation, and already, the few Republicans who have responded to this absurd request differ sharply on the issue.
On the heels of Donald Trump’s completely fabricated allegation that President Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower during the presidential campaign, the White House has doubled down by demanding a congressional investigation of that lie.
The White House has also tellingly — for the second week in a row — made only one administration official, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, available for a single appearance on a Sunday show.
On ABC’s This Week, Sanders made it clear that Trump’s lie was based on nothing more than discredited right-wing media reports:
RADDATZ: Was the principal source the Breitbart story, which links to The New York Times? But The New York Times doesn’t say anything definitive. Donald Trump does. There is nothing equivocating about what he says. ‘I just found out that Obama had my wires tapped.’ That’s not looking into something. He says it happened.
SANDERS: Look, I think the bigger thing is you guys are always telling us to take the media seriously. Well, we are today. We’re taking the reports that places like The New York Times, Fox News, BBC, multiple outlets have reported this. All we’re saying is, let’s take a closer look. Let’s look into this. If this happened, if this is accurate, this is the biggest overreach and the biggest scandal.
RADDATZ: But you’re not saying ‘Let’s look into this.’ The president of the United States is accusing the former president of wiretapping him!
SANDERS: I think that this is, again, something that if this happened, Martha —
RADDATZ: If, if, if, if.
SANDERS: [laughs] I agree.
RADDTAZ: Why is the president saying it did happen?
SANDERS: Look, I think he’s going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.
The supposed facts that Sanders cites do Trump no favors: The credible media reports she references indicate that a FISA warrant involving Trump associates was granted as part of a six-agency investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, which indicates that probable cause did exist for such a warrant. The lie that President Obama directed wiretapping of Trump Tower is simply a fabrication by a right-wing radio host.
Non-administration Republican defenders of Trump were in short supply Sunday as well, but Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he was prepared to investigate Trump’s lies:
WALLACE: The White House is not calling on — is now calling on to investigate whether or not the Obama administration abused its executive role. Are you going to do that?
COTTON: Chris, we’ve already begun an inquiry on the intelligence committee into Russia’s efforts to undermine confidence in our political system last year, and in our interests all around the world. That inquiry is going to be thorough, and we’re going to follow the facts wherever they lead us. And I’m sure that this matter will be a part of that inquiry.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), on the other hand, was considerably less enthusiastic about the prospect of investigating Trump’s lie. In an interview with Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd, Rubio could barely stifle a laugh at Trump’s allegation, and pointedly placed the onus on Trump to back it up:
TODD: It’s such a serious allegation. I mean it is either, if it’s true, it’s an extraordinary political scandal. And if it’s not true, it’s an extraordinary political scandal. Fair?
RUBIO: Well, if it’s true, and I just hate speculating about these things because it gives, you know —
TODD: This is the president of the United States that’s speculating on our behalf.
RUBIO: I understand, but I’m saying — let’s say — clearly, I don’t think anybody — if that were true, then there’s no doubt that it would be a very newsworthy item with a lot of discussion about it. And if it’s not true, then obviously, one would ask themselves, ‘Well, why did you put that out there to begin with? And what was the rationale behind it?’
But look, I didn’t make the allegation. I’m not the person that went out there and said it. I’ve already told you I don’t have — I’ve never said that before. I wouldn’t say that to you today. I have no basis to say that. If the president or the White House does, then they’re going to lay that out over the next few days, and we’re all going to be very interested to see just exactly what it is they were talking about.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) maintained a straighter face, but similarly placed the ball in Trump’s court to provide evidence for his claims, and in a telling moment, even seemed to gently suggest, with a smile, that Trump simply shut up:
DICKERSON: Does he have an obligation to present some kind of evidence now, now that he has put this charge out there about President Obama?
COLLINS: The president has called for congressional investigations into the allegations that he made, starting yesterday morning, so I would expect that he is going to want to provide our committee with any evidence that he has.
DICKERSON: Does he owe the public something more than what he owes the committee, just as a matter of, what Senator Sasse said, it was a matter of public trust? Do you agree with that?
COLLINS: It would probably be helpful if he gave more information, but it also might be helpful if he just didn’t comment further, and allowed us to do our work.
While Rubio and Collins were relatively restrained in their responses, it is telling that the Trump administration could find no Republican surrogates to defend their position, or book any of their own officials on four of the five shows. It seems that Republicans who are willing to participate in Trump’s effort to distract from the ongoing Russia investigation, by following his absurd demand for an investigation, are in exceedingly short supply.