“Spygate” — the revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used at least one informant to infiltrate Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — provides further vindication of the contention made in March 2017 by conservative radio host Mark Levin, Breitbart News, and President Trump (in that order) that the Obama administration conducted surveillance of the opposition in an attempt to monitor, defeat, and delegitimize it.
As Breitbart News recalled earlier this year:
On March 2, 2017, Levin noted mainstream media reports that suggested that law enforcement and intelligence agencies had conducted surveillance of Trump associates during the last months of the Obama administration. He also noted President Barack Obama had taken the unusual step of allowing surveillance reports to be disseminated more widely within the government, which made it more likely that details would be leaked to sympathetic media.
Levin criticized what he called “police state” tactics by the Obama administration, and speculated that the agencies might have been involved in a “silent coup” to undermine the incoming Trump administration, which was loathed by official Washington.
On March 3, Breitbart News reported Levin’s broadcast and added additional evidence to the timeline, summarizing Levin’s accusations: “In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.”
On March 4, President Donald Trump tweeted:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
The mainstream media went berserk. Though he had placed the phrase “wires tapped” in quotes, suggesting that he meant to refer to surveillance in general, the mainstream media chose to hold Trump to the literal meaning of those words and declared his claims false.
Brian Stelter of CNN called the whole story a “conspiracy theory” cooked up by right-wing media: “There is no evidence to back up this theory.”
In February, a House Intelligence Committee memorandum confirmed that the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Trump aide Carter Page, and that it had obtained a warrant to do so from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, based in part on a “dossier” that had been funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee — facts that the FBI failed to disclose directly to the court.
The new reports of an “informant” — again, provided by mainstream media sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post, the preferred outlets for “deep state” leakers within the Department of Justice — further vindicate suspicions that the outgoing administration spied on the opposing presidential campaign.
The reports add some new information, such as the existence of a “human intelligence” operation, in the form of alleged informant Stefan A. Halper, that may have complemented the “signals intelligence” operation centered on Carter Page (and perhaps others).
The reports also provide reason to question recent claims that the surveillance was only triggered by reports from a foreign diplomat in July 2016 about claims made in a bar by junior Trump aide George Papadopoulos. As Byron York of the Washington Examiner argues, there is now reason to believe the surveillance began months earlier.
Former Obama administration officials are no longer trying to deny that a spying operation exists, but have been reduced to justifying it as an attempt to protect the country — and resisting efforts to uncover more information. Former FBI Director James Comey, among others, claims that efforts to investigate “Spygate” — a term invented Tuesday by President Donald Trump — pose a danger to the country:
Facts matter. The FBI’s use of Confidential Human Sources (the actual term) is tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country. Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country. How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?
— James Comey (@Comey) May 23, 2018
The critics do not suggest any role for civilian oversight.
Far from a “conspiracy theory,” as claimed by CNN and others, the accusation that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign is now widely admitted. And the public has just begun to learn how far that effort went.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.