Nunes, Trump, and the Russians: Here's what we know
For many weeks, we've watched the Democrats and their allies in the media attempt to hide what is now an established fact: the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign and transition team. The principal method of obfuscation is an effort to link Trump's people to Russia's efforts to influence our election. But there is a secondary effort that also needs to be addressed.
Ridicule is a powerful weapon. There a consistent media effort to ridicule President Trump by intentionally misunderstanding him. There is a parallel effort to ridicule the discoveries of House Intelligence chairman Nunes by questioning his methods for getting to the truth. The important point is that Nunes got to the truth.
Eli Lake writing in BloombergView reports that on dozens of occasions, Obama national security adviser Susan Rice requested raw intelligence reports involving members of the Trump team.
The intelligence, which is routinely collected on foreign nationals, adheres to a strict policy of masking any American inadvertently eavesdropped upon. On multiple occasions, Rice had the American Trump team members unmasked. Quoting Lake, "[o]ne U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration." That is spying, pure and simple.
We all need to guard against letting our partisan perspectives interfere with sound judgment.
I want my liberal friends to ponder the following. The raw intelligence came from the NSA. They collect virtually everything communicated electronically. I'm told that the NSA often picks ordinary private face-to-face conversions. When a government official can pick through NSA transcripts, identify the ones she wants, remove all privacy safeguards, disseminate them, and leak them to the press, we've effectively repealed the Fourth Amendment.
We have been distracted by the investigations of Russian interference in our election and by the Democrats' vain hope of tying the Trump team to this interference. All we know about Russian influence is that they hacked John Podesta's emails. We can all agree that hacking into and disseminating other people's private communications is a bad thing. It's bad if the Russians did it, but not really any worse than if it had been done by a teenager in the next block. Hacking is a bad – period.
There is one case where we as Americans add an extra dimension to bad actions: when our government does bad things using the coercive power we reserve for the State, it is extraordinarily bad. That's why we have the Bill of Rights. That is also why Susan Rice's actions are worse than the Russians'.
It's difficult to sell that idea to many Democrats. They are convinced that absent the hacking and the imagined Trump collusion, Hilary would be president. We expect that from Democrats. They never lose an election fairly. These are the people who still believe that in the 2000 election, the Supreme Court selected Bush over Gore. Their belief is unshakable, even in the face of extensive research conducted by a consortium of news organizations including the NY Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and five other organizations. The consortium concluded that Bush won Florida and therefore won the presidency.
This sort of carping, then and now, is almost too boring to bother with. But let's list two quick points.
1. According to James Comey, the Russians did not affect the outcome of the election.
2. According to Nunes Democrat counterpart Adam Schiff, "there is no definitive evidence of a Trump-Russia connection." There is no publicly available evidence of any sort that there is a connection. The congressman promises to keep digging through the shifting sands until he gets to the bottom. Maybe there's a bottom, but more likely he's just forgotten the first rule of holes.
Congressman Nunes is to be commended. He revealed a plot that is a stain our belief in the peaceful transfer of power. It is amazing that anyone is concerned by his methods. In context, his methods are completely appropriate. He went to the executive office building to view Susan Rice's sign-in, sign-out logs in the secure facility. That's the only place such logs exist. He met with President Trump. Well, of course he did. Having just discovered that you were spied upon, you wouldn't meet with the president?
The last lines of defense against Nunes's revelations are his sources. They are White House appointees. If the information they provide is accurate, why is the source an issue? On a human level, it is interesting to know that the man known as Deep Throat who led Woodward and Bernstein through the maze of Nixon's deceptions was a fellow named Mark Felt. But if his identity had never been revealed, nothing would change. The facts that came to light mattered, not the source. The situation here is exactly the same.
Finally, we come to ridiculing and exaggerating what President Trump said. Both Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper, guys who play journalists on TV, insist they can read Trump's mind. His accusation that Obama had "wiretapped" Trump tower meant a literal actual wiretap at the tower. Most people recognize metaphors. To make it easy for us to understand his meaning, Trump put "wiretapped" in scare quotes. Trump is clearly saying the Obama administration spied on him. He is correct. Some of the intercepted conversations probably did come from Trump Tower.
I have two questions for Todd and Tapper. When meeting with a whistleblower, do you ask to inspect his whistle? When you encounter a leak, do you put your finger in the dike?
Here's what we know. The Russians played a little mischief in our election, but with no discernible effect. The claim that the Trump team colluded with Russians is a typical Democrat excuse for their election loss. The mainstream media have gone beyond their normal bounds in their efforts to discredit both President Trump and Chairman Nunes. Mr. Todd and Mr. Tapper are even sillier than they appear to be. Finally, we know that the Obama administration spied on the Trump team and perhaps even on President Trump.