Clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung.
-P. T. Barnum
A drunk juggler, walking a high wire, juggling chainsaws, as the American public looks up in shock and disbelief. That’s Donald Trump. The man who would be ringmaster of our political circus. Surrounded by a bevy of freaks, his only mirror the fun house of the right wing media.
There’s no way this
circus presidency ends well. The only questions are how and it ends. (Bookmakers are giving odds). And more importantly, what the extent of the damage to America will be.
If there were a way to stave off investigations into his and his campaign’s connections to Russia, his unhinged, Saturday morning tweets were not it. Accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower was completely nuts. There are enough people with an investment in reality that investigations are inevitable. The GOP is trying to get enough of its agenda passed before the Trump presidency completely crumbles.
A sane president, one without a virulent personality disorder abetted by a personal fortune, might have used the tweets as pre-emptive strike against whatever the next Russia revelation will be. Instead, it was up to talk show host Mark Levin, a pus-bag of conservative vitriol, to pass the buck to Obama–the man who couldn’t do anything right as president but can manage the most nefarious conspiracy now out of office. (It’s him behind the protests, don’t you know).
Levin’s story, passed on by Breitbart, wasn’t absolutely unsourced. “A series of reports that began with a piece by Louise Mensch in Heat Street back in November, later corroborated by articles published by The Guardian and the BBC in January, claimed that the FBI sought a warrant from the FISA Court.
In connection with a multi-agency intelligence investigation of Russian interference with the presidential election, the FBI sought an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing them to monitor transactions between two Russian banks and four persons connected with the Trump campaign.
The Guardian‘s report alleges that initial applications submitted over the summer, naming “four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials,” were rejected by the FISC.
But according to the BBC, a narrower order naming only the Russian banks as direct targets was ultimately approved by the FISC in October. While the BBC report suggests that the surveillance was meant to ferret out “transfers of money,” the Mensch article asserts that a “warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.”
Caveats about anonymous sources should apply here, but the allegations are certainly plausible. The FBI may or may not have received a FISA warrant for electronic surveillance of Trump and/or his bevy of circus freaks, but it is more than probable that they were recorded on the NSA’s taps of the Russian Embassy’s phones. General Flynn, perhaps the stupidest man to make general in the contemporary military, apparent wasn’t aware of the fact.
In the first place, the White House doesn’t ask for such wiretaps, ever; such requests come directly from NSA, the FBI, or the Justice Department. Involvement of any White House in such highly classified requests would immediately set off enormous red flags in the IC and DoJ due to their glaringly political—and therefore illegal—aim.
There’s a special top secret Federal court that handles such sensitive warrant requests, which are issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which allows for intelligence gathering against foreign spies and terrorists. They key words in FISA are the first two: foreign intelligence. Warrants are only issued against foreign targets which are deemed to be plausibly involved in espionage or terrorism against the United States.
However, Americans who call or email those suspicious foreigners may appear in signals intelligence collection, although under FISA their identities are concealed in SIGINT reports in a process the IC terms “minimization.” In other words, your civil liberties as an American do not include the right to communicate with foreign bad guys without possible monitoring. Keep in mind, though, that under FISA the people being targeted are foreign spies and terrorists, not Americans.
It’s likely then that Trump’s roustabouts have been recorded talking with Ambassador Sislyak, though FISA law requires their identities be minimized. The Obamacare Sideshow opened today, so Russia will likely be out of the center ring for the next few days. FBI Director James Comey has been asked to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee, along with National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, former acting attorney general Sally Yates and two executives from CrowdStrike Inc., a cybersecurity company, to the March 20 hearing.
UPDATE: Lies, Lies, Lies
We’re accustomed to President Trump lying. Last weekend, he told a whopper in the form of the accusation about being wiretapped. He’s repeatedly denied any contacts with Russia.
“Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia,” Trump said during a February 16 press conference. He said he contacts with Russia were limited to talking twice to Vladimir Putin after election day.
On February 20, Trump spokesperson Sarah Sanders flatly declared that the Trump campaign had “no contacts” with Russia.
The Wall Street Journal apparently reported the fact in May, but almost no one noticed. It comes as no surprise that Trump and his carnival barkers were lying:
Trump met Kislyak during a VIP reception April 27 at the Mayflower Hotel shortly before a foreign policy address, according to a report at the time in the Wall Street Journal. In the speech, Trump said an “easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia” is possible.
Also in attendance to this invitation only event:
Attorney General Senator Jeff Sessions