In a stunning filing last night, the Department of Justice stated in a court case that neither the FBI nor its National Security Division ever wiretapped Trump Tower, contradicting a bombshell claim President Trump made in a series of early morning tweets on March 4.
The document is the first time the Department of Justice has officially denied the substance of the Tweets. Former FBI Director James Comey had already denied that the FBI ever wiretapped Trump.
“Both FBI and NSD confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.” the filing states.
The tweets were arguably the most incendiary the President had issued to date.
The statement came in a court filing Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by the government watchdog group American Oversight, which had requested “Warrant applications or records requesting a court order to intercept communications related to candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower, entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign; court orders approving or rejecting those requests; records of those wiretaps, and; communications between the FBI or DOJ and Congress relating to these issues.”
In an email, White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote: “This isn’t news. We have already addressed it.”
But the DOJ filing indicates that it is, in fact, news.
“Other than this public statement by then-Director Comey addressing this specific assertion by the President, neither the FBI nor DOJ have publicly commented on or acknowledged the existence or non-existence of any FISA, Title III, or other wiretaps “in connection with presidential candidate Donald Trump, Trump Tower (located at 725 5th Avenue, New York, NY), entities housed in Trump Tower, or any person affiliated with Mr. Trump’s campaign, whether paid or unpaid, between June 16, 2015, and the present.” (Italics added by Newsweek.)
The White House has since argued Trump was actually referring to various foreign intelligence investigations—including the routine monitoring of Russians in the United States—that picked up communications with Trump campaign aides. Those aides’ identities were then ”unmasked” or identified to Obama intelligence officials.
The DOJ document states that its response to the FOIA does not “confirm or deny” the existence of other records that might pertain to the FOIA request but were being withheld on grounds of “national security,” including foreign relations and “the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods.”
American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers says the documents “have confirmed in writing that President Trump lied when he tweeted that former President Obama ‘wiretapped’ him at Trump Tower. As the president and his legal team continue their smear campaign against Mr. Comey, Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller and others investigating him, this filing confirms that even Trump’s own Department of Justice does not believe he has credibility on a key element of the Russia investigation.”
Besides Comey himself, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who served as the head of the nation’s 17 intelligence gathering agencies, including the CIA and NSA, had also denied that the intelligence agencies bugged Trump. Clapper said that he would have known “about a court order on something like this,” and that the agencies he supervised had never wiretapped Trump’s phones.
In a time-honored Washington P.R. stunt, the timing of the Friday night filing right before a three-day holiday so far shrouded the fact the Trump’s own DOJ is, for the first time, officially contradicting one of his most notorious allegations.
Trump, his administration and their supporters in the media have dismissed congressional and special investigations into possible collusion with Russian election hackers by blaming the Obama administration and its “deep state” holdovers in the intelligence community for mounting a “witch hunt.”
The three-day Labor Day holiday is likely to be the last lull in the Trump-Russia investigation for some time. This week it was revealed that Special Counsel Mueller’s team has been working with New York Attorney General Schneiderman, a legal force multiplier that is potentially catastrophic because Trump cannot pardon state crimes. In the next few weeks, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump Organization and Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as other high-level aides, are scheduled to testify before Congressional committees.