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Fox News and Donald Trump Are Trying to Manufacture a Controversy Where None Exists

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 3, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | April 3, 2017 |

We’ve been around the block with Donald Trump enough times to know how this works by now. To shift focus away from the investigation into collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Donald Trump and his Twitter account — often with the aid of Fox News or some other right wing outlet — tweets some bullshit, Democrats feign outrage, and the mainstream media jumps all over it. Even if it is only to refute Donald Trump, it raises the specter of scandal within the #MAGA crowd. Then we spend three weeks debating the merits of the “scandal,” a process that often involves members of the media (or of Congress, in the case of Devin Nunes) attempting to uncover evidence to support Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated made-up claims.

Last month, when Donald Trump claimed that Obama wiretapped his Trump Tower phones, maybe the mainstream media and the Democrats should have taken a cue from Republicans like John McCain, who basically rolled his eyes and implied, “Oh, this fucking guy again? Jesus, I know he’s the President and all, but why do you treat anything he says seriously? He’s not a serious person. He’s an insane person, and were it not for the fact that he is a billionaire POTUS, he could easily be mistaken for a shouting hobo in Times Square.”

Every headline after Donald Trump’s initial wiretapping tweets should have been, “Old Man Yells at Clouds,” or “Delusion, Paranoid Man Elected to the Highest Office in the Land Makes Up More Sh*t.” Instead, the media has spent the last month trying to substantiate the unsubstantiated, and they have come up empty. But that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from claiming vindication.

The latest?

What the f*ck is he talking about, right? Well, here you go: From Bloomberg:

Former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign.

In other words, it was Susan Rice who requested that the names of Trump associates in the legally obtained conversation with foreign diplomats be unmasked. Was this illegal? No. Does it support Trump’s initial wiretapping claims? No. Was it part of a legitimate counterintelligence investigation against Donald Trump and his campaign? Yes, yes it was. But Donald Trump doesn’t want us to focus on the fact that the names of his associates were unmasked because his transition team was potentially colluding with Russia. He wants to focus on the fact that their names — including that of Michael Flynn — were unmasked in the first place.

And it’s working with the #MAGA crowd, anyway.

Oh, come the f*ck on!


Susan Rice legally unmasked the names of Trump associates who were potentially illegally attempting to undermine U.S. foreign policy. It was the obligation of the Obama Administration to monitor contacts with foreign officials. This is not a scandal. This is the routine work of a National Security Advisor. Trump’s people were talking to foreign officials: That’s the scandal. Susan Rice requesting that their names be unmasked is not.

But if Donald Trump wants to keep digging into this, if he wants to keep the fact that his people were talking to foreign officials during an election campaign in the news, be our guests. But for God’s sake, don’t let anyone convince you that Susan Rice doing her job was a scandal. Even the original Bloomberg story says that Rice’s actions were not illegal:

Rice’s requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials does not vindicate Trump’s own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower. There remains no evidence to support that claim.

But Rice’s multiple requests to learn the identities of Trump officials discussed in intelligence reports during the transition period does highlight a longstanding concern for civil liberties advocates about U.S. surveillance programs. The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything. This suggests Rice’s unmasking requests were likely within the law.

This is not what Trump claims, and it is not illegal, but if we all want to have a conversation about the limits of what our national security apparatus ought to be able to monitor, then let’s have it. I suspect that Donald Trump and the GOP has no problem when the FBI surveils calls between a Muslim-American talking to his mom back in Iraq; Trump is just upset that he got swept up in legal surveillance.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.