Here’s a pattern you’ve probably noticed about the way the media deals with President Trump. When his literal words might be off target but his meaning can be justified, his literal words are all that matters. But when his literal words turn out to be accurate . . . well, that’s not what he meant!
Did the Obama Administration wiretap Trump Tower? Or were there some other form of FISA surveillance that Trump clumsily described as a wiretap in a very specific building? We’ve already dealt with the surveillance question, but the media rejects that because that’s not specifically and literally what Trump said. He said Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. They’ve been telling us for weeks that there is no evidence this ever happened.
There, indeed, was an FBI wiretap involving Russians at Trump Tower.
But it was not placed at the behest of Barack Obama, and the target was not the Trump campaign of 2016. For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money-laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower in New York.
The FBI investigation led to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Known as the “Little Taiwanese,” he was the only target to slip away, and he remains a fugitive from American justice.
Seven months after the April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a red notice for Tokhtakhounov, he appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump had sold the Russian rights for Miss Universe to a billionaire Russian shopping mall developer.
“He is a major player,” said Mike Gaeta, the agent who led the 2013 FBI investigation of Tokhtakhounov and his alleged mafia money-laundering and gambling ring, in a 2014 interview with ABC News. “He is prominent. He has extremely good connections in the business world as well as the criminal world, overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, other countries.”
Gaeta, who ran the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime unit in New York, told ABC News at the time that federal agents were closely tracking Tokhtakhounov, whose Russian ring was suspected of moving more than $50 million in illegal money into the United States.
So there was no wiretap of Trump Tower, except for those two years when there was a wiretap of Trump Tower. Don’t get confused
So there was no wiretap of Trump Tower, except for those two years when there was a wiretap of Trump Tower. Don’t get confused.
Now, about this particular wiretap: Obviously, if the tap was in place from 2011 through 2013, it couldn’t have targeted the Trump campaign because there was no Trump campaign at the time. Then again, Trump did write a book in 2011 called “How To Make America Number One Again,” and he did make some noises about running, and he was going around pushing birtherism. It was certainly clear as early as then that Trump was no friend of Obama.
If you want find a way to make this a case of Obama-was-really-targeting-Trump, there’s your prospective motive. The focus on the Russian mafia boss is just a ruse, the old reverse-targeting gambit. The real target was Trump, but with no legal rationale for wiretapping Trump, you target the guy in his building instead and hope you catch something you can use against Trump in the process. If this guy is really a Russian mafia boss, you’ve got an airtight rationale, so why not?
The problem with that argument is that, even if you left aside the possible motive to go after Trump, the rationale for targeting Tokhtakhounov is rock solid. Maybe Obama did have his eye on Trump, but if he didn’t, how could you argue it would be wrong to go after Tokhtakhounov? You can’t.
So could this be the wiretap Trump was referring to in his tweet? It’s not impossible although everyone assumed he was referring to something that happened during the campaign. That might explain his comment that he “just found out” about it. And maybe Trump jumped to conclusions that the whole thing was a thinly veiled way of targeting him.
Or maybe there’s something to that. One of the defense we’ve heard of Obama is that he doesn’t personally get involved in decisions like wiretapping and would never use such a thing for political purposes. I seem to recall them saying the exact same thing about the decision not to indict Hillary. Did you believe their defense of him then? Do you believe it now?