CNN’s Jake Tapper took on the latest controversy emanating from the Twitter postings of President Donald Trump — the four tweets fired off Saturday morning that accused former President Barack Obama, without any verifiable substantiation, of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The postings touched off a firestorm of conjecture and speculation on social media and on the 24-hour news services, with many questioning the president’s sources but also debating the veracity and the validity of the claims. Within hours, the sources had been tracked to a trail of conservative media outlets that had been speculating on what kind of information (and how it may have been obtained) the Obama administration had on the Trump camp during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The big question, of course, where did the president get this latest conspiracy theory from?” Tapper asked, anchoring CNN’s The Lead on Monday.
“As we reported,” Tapper continued, “White House officials say the president’s sources were various conservative outlets, most prominently, perhaps, radio host Mark Levin, who seemed to take three basic chunks of information and combine them into one conspiracy theory of what he calls a silent coup going on by the intelligence community and former Obama administration officials.”
Tapper listed those “chunks of information”: “One, leaks from the Intelligence Committee calling out Trump administration officials for giving out inaccurate information about their contacts with the Russians and other stories. Two, news reports that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians. And, three, unconfirmed reports in the British press that the FBI may have sought FISA warrants to monitor Trump campaign communications.”
At least one unconfirmed report had come from The Guardian.
The trail of conservative media that started with the Levin radio broadcast would come to included Fox News Channel and Breitbart News, the same outlet once headed by President Trump’s current chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Tapper noted that none of the conservative outlets had mentioned President Obama at all, “nor do they say wiretapping was ever approved on Mr. Trump himself.”
Tapper then noted the “amazing detail” of President Trump’s accusation of then President Obama having Trump Tower wiretapped, something the president claimed as fact.
“It would be bad enough if the president valued conjecture and accusations of these sources more than the facts that he has access to,” Tapper said. ” … But it’s actually worse than that. President Trump took what Levin and others were saying and made it even less tethered to fact.”
Tapper said that where the media outlets had “alleged a conspiracy,” President Trump insisted it actually occurred and claimed that President Obama had ordered the wiretap.
The CNN anchor brought up an earlier report that FBI Director James Comey had stated he was “incredulous” that the accusation had been made and had said it was “completely false.” But he also admitted that the President Trump had “legitimate reasons” to question the unprecedented number of leaks in his administration and the motivations behind them.
“Keep in mind one not-irrelevant detail here for anyone trying to make sense of it all,” Tapper continued, shifting easily into commentary.
“We’ve been here before, and this is not a land with much sense, or respect for facts. This is a place of conspiracy theories untethered to facts. And these theories are voiced by President Trump.”
The anchor then listed several conspiracy theories that had been given voice by Trump, either as president or as candidate, president-elect, and/or private citizen. Barack Obama faked his birth certificate, thousands of New Jersey Muslims were on TV celebrating 9/11, Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, vaccines cause autism, and implying that the deaths of Justice Antonin Scalia and top Clinton administration aide Vince Foster were something other than what has been officially reported.
All false, he said.
“It goes on and on,” Tapper said,
“None of it’s true. And the people around President Trump who are enabling this nonsense, the ones who know better, you have to ask yourselves this question: Are you really serving the president? Are you really serving the American people?”
This is not Jake Tapper’s first time taking on the president and his association with conspiracy theories. Back in mid-February, President Trump, in addressing the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (after it was revealed he had met with Russian operatives while part of Trump’s presidential campaign and not disclosed the contact), blamed the scandal and his ultimate firing on “fake news” and “conspiracy theories” in the media. Tapper was quick to point out that it was not fake news to report on sourced allegations or facts, but conspiracy theories, many of which have been espoused by President Trump himself (and which Tapper illustrated by showing video clips of Trump delving into conspiracy theories), were “nonsense.”
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]