Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trump’s poor understanding of national security investigations may prove dangerous

Revealing dangerous paranoia, profound ignorance or both, the President of the United States leveled gravely serious accusations at his predecessor — essentially alleging criminal abuse of power.

That Trump’s claims appear impulsive makes them no less alarming for the republic.

In tweets Saturday morning, Trump asserted that President Obama last year personally ordered Trump Tower wiretaps.

Citing no source, Trump wrote that he “just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” calling the former President a “bad (or sick) guy.”

So much for the more presidential, sober Trump who briefly reared his head in a joint address to Congress Tuesday night.

What motivated Trump is, as often, a mystery, but he appears to have been driven by a breathlessly conspiratorial report in, you guessed it, Breitbart News, detailing radio host Mark Levin’s theory that Obama staged a “silent coup” against his successor.

To further elaborate upon the theory is to lend it credibility; no one on Trump’s staff offered up an explanation. Obama, in a statement, flatly rejected Trump’s allegation.

Indeed, a senior U.S. official in a position to know told NBC News’ Pete Williams that Trump’s charges had no merit, and that the President apparently did not consult with others in the government who were in a position to verify, correct or reject the claim.

At the very least, Trump is taking leaps that reveal a profound, perhaps willful failure to understand how national security investigations work.[...]

Professional investigators in the executive branch request a warrant; an independent judge, serving a seven-year term, must then approve it. Foreign surveillance warrants are triggered by probable cause that a particular individual committed a serious crime or acted as an agent of a foreign power.

And tapping a political candidate for political purposes is expressly forbidden.

A President of the United States should know all this. If he doesn’t, he has dozens of people ready, willing and paid to educate him.

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