At the end of a Thursday morning appearance on President Trump’s favorite show, Vice President Mike Pence was asked about this week’s bombshell revelation that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was the subject of a FISA warrant, and hence a wiretap, during during stretches of time both before and after the 2016 election, including early this year — “a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.”
Not only does CNN’s bombshell report suggest there could be records of communications Trump had with his former campaign chairman during a time when the campaign was involved in shady dealings with Russian officials, but it indicates investigators had good reason to believe Trump’s former campaign chairman was serving as an “agent of a foreign power.”
But during the interview on Thursday, Pence and Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade teamed up to frame the story as vindicating Trump’s reckless accusation that Obama wiretapped him.
I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
“How concerned are you about the revelations of Trump campaign workers?” Kilmeade asked Pence, ignoring that federal agents had to demonstrate probable cause Manafort was acting as an agent of a foreign power to a FISA judge in order to obtain a warrant in the first place.
In reply, Pence refers to Trump’s former campaign chairman as merely “someone,” and suggests news Manafort was wiretapped vindicates Trump.
“Well, all of these revelations are breathtaking to me, including the recent news that there was in fact wiretapping against someone who had a condominium in the Trump Tower,” Pence said.
Pence’s claim is misleading. As CNN reporter Marshall Cohen points out, the wiretap in question pertained to Paul Manafort the person, not Trump Tower, where Manafort reportedly bought a condo with cash in 2006.
Wiretap CNN reported was on Manafort the person, not Trump Tower the building. Though he obviously had some contact with the tower.
— Marshall Cohen (@Marshall_Cohen) September 19, 2017
Even Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee acknowledge that the Obama administration did nothing improper when it comes to surveilling Trump associates. Last week, CNN reported that during closed testimony, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice told House investigators that she unmasked Trump associates who participated in a clandestine meeting with United Arab Emirates Crown Price Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahya in New York City late last year.
CNN reported that the crown prince met with several top Trump officials during that trip, including Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon. Later, the UAE was later involved in an effort to set up a back-channel communication between Trump officials and Russia, according to the outlet.
This explanation satisfied Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, including Rep. Tom Rooney (FL), who told CNN that “I didn’t hear anything to believe that [Rice] did anything illegal,” and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who told Fox News, “I’ve been really tough on Susan Rice in the past, I think it’s important that when a witness does a good job, you tell people she did a good job, and when she doesn’t do a good job, you tell them that too — she did a good job.”
But that news didn’t stop President Trump from continuing to lie about Rice. Two days after CNN published its report detailing why Rice unmasked Trump officials, Trump again alleged that Rice did something wrong.
“She’s not supposed to be doing that,” said Trump, who in April accused Rice of committing a crime without presenting any evidence she actually did so. “What she did was wrong.”
If the Fox & Friends interview is any indication, it appears Pence, like Trump, will continue to try and spin explosive new revelations about Trump associates’ Russia ties into new Obama-centric scandals. And right-win media will aid in the effort — both Fox News and Breitbart falsely framed CNN’s reporting about Manafort as somehow vindicating Trump.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 19, 2017
The way these stories are presented to Fox News viewers is admittedly important to Trump. During his first interview as president, Trump explained the importance of Fox News to his agenda, saying what he really cares about is if Fox News hosts and the network’s “very smart” viewers agree with him.