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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 05, 2017

 

How deep is Trump's rabbit hole?

by Tom Sullivan


’ChapStick’ surveillance devices similar to those destroyed by FBI Director L. Patrick Gray during Watergate. [Source: National Archives].

How to process yesterday's rage tweeting by the sitting president that his phones were tapped by President Obama? First, and perhaps foremost, Trump's non-experience in public office and stunning lack of self-awareness of what he doesn't know continue to dog him as much as his paranoia and immaturity. Ben Rhodes, an Obama foreign policy advisor, responded:


Steve Benen sums up the dilemma Trump's own instability presents for him:
As Digby pointed out yesterday, this is what comes of a president getting his news from the fever swamps at Breitbart. (Didn't he have plans for draining swamps?)

The New York Times reports that the White House, rather than tamping down Trump's rage tweets, is going even deeper down the rabbit hole:
But a senior White House official said that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working to secure access to what Mr. McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.

The official offered no evidence to support the notion that such an order exists. It would be a highly unusual breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence on law enforcement matters for the White House to order it to turn over such an investigative document.
Yes, that would be interfering in an ongoing investigation.


Besides Trump not knowing what he's talking about, there are subtleties to how national intelligence works that many reporting on these matters miss, especially if they write for Breitbart. For unpacking the backstory to the Breitbart piece that inspired the Trump tweets, there's Marcy Wheeler. It's a long, detailed post explaining that while it is likely Trump isn't bugged, "It’s quite likely a number of Trump’s close associates are ..." Wheeler concludes:
Based on the assumption there is a FISA order covering at least some of his close associates, but probably not one covering him, understand what has happened here:
1. Trump’s Attorney General, who claims he had already decided to recuse, recused after his nomination lies were exposed, meaning he no longer controls the investigation into his boss
2. A misleading article written in response to that recusal led Trump to claim he was being targeted
3. Based on the claim, Trump sent out his WHCO to find a FISA order probably not targeting him but probably targeting his aides
4. Having just been deprived of visibility and control over the investigation, Trump is forcibly obtaining another way to control it
Bruce Bartlett distilled to an insult Trump's attempt at creating a Wiretapgate narrative and to stifle the Russian one:
But don't expect Trump to get on his knees and pray, but it may be his staff will. After his speech Tuesday, Trump's week went downhill as fast as his attorney general's. CNN reports:
"Nobody has seen him that upset," one source said, adding the feeling was the communications team allowed the Sessions news, which the administration deemed a nonstory, to overtake the narrative.

On Thursday, Sessions recused himself from any current or future investigations into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign after it was reported he had met with the Russian ambassador to the US, something he had previously failed to disclose.
After all the congratulations Trump received for his Tuesday speech, the Russia investigation came roaring back. Of course, Trump blamed his staff. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted yesterday morning, "During the campaign, Trump would routinely kick aides off the plane as a time-out. 'They hate me because they hate you,' was a refrain." That is consistent with what follows in the CNN report:
When the President returned to the White House Thursday evening from a day trip to Virginia, there were "a lot of expletives." The source said for more than a week Trump had been lamenting that his senior staff "just keep getting in their own way."

[...]

Trump is upset because he doesn't believe he is getting credit he thinks he deserves for his time office so far because of self-inflicted wounds and missteps, the source said. An informed presidential ally outside government but close to the President said Trump was really angry about having a "mini disaster" a week. The President's mood is adding to tremendous pressure inside the West Wing and aides have been seen in tears in recent days at multiple meetings.
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is on the receiving end of Trump's tantrums as well, according to CNN. So now Trump has given him a time-out. Although he was on the manifest to accompany Trump to Florida for the weekend, Preibus is remaining in Washington. White House staff deny Priebus was supposed to go, insisting Priebus stayed behind "for a family celebration."

A lot of Trump's people soon may need more time with their families.