When President Trump was elected to office, he visited with President Obama. The meeting went well enough with numerous photos of the two shaking hands, smiling and seemingly enjoying each other’s company. We can assume that cordial relationship is no longer.
President Trump tweeted an accusation against President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower prior to the election. When pressed about his source, Trump claimed he read in a January 20th New York Times article about President Obama’s wiretapping.
Although the New York Times article Trump cites as proof of Obama’s order to wiretap Trump Tower did contain the word “wiretap,” nowhere does it mention that the Obama administration ordered wiretapping. Instead, the article discussed an FBI investigation of possible links between unnamed Russian officials and Trump associates. Ironically, Trump has time and time again taken issue with the New York Times’ reporting, calling them “failing news.”
Why We Should All Be Worried About Trump’s Accusation
Trump’s assertion is alarming for several reasons. First, why is Trump relying on new media outlets, especially ones that he claims are “failing,” for intelligence reports? The president has various intelligence agencies at his disposal with tools that are more comprehensive than any news outlet. And why is he glued to the TV when he should be running the country?
It is also worrisome because we have to question his reading comprehension. If he interpreted an article discussing possible FBI investigation of Trump aides to mean that Obama himself ordered wiretapping, there is a clear disconnect between what he read, what it really means and what he interpreted.
Trump’s interpretation calls into question his understanding of Presidential Powers. Is it possible that Trump believes the F.B.I. serves at the instruction of the President and he therefore believed Obama ordered government surveillance of him and his aides? As the acting President of the United States, one would hope he knows what he can and cannot do.
Finally, does Trump really believe Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? If so, we have to question his mental sanity. He’s acting paranoid, not at all like a President.
The Proof is in the Pudding, and there is No Pudding
The New York Times denied ever writing any article that had the effect of claiming the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. Numerous news outlets and government leaders have also questioned Trump as he points to absolutely no evidence to support his claims.
On Monday, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey revealed that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have found any information to corroborate Trump’s outlandish claims.
The “fake news” has been coming from President Trump all along.
A Lie is a Lie, but What Happens Next?
This isn’t the first lie Trump has been caught in, and it probably won’t be the last. But will he face any consequences for his lie?
The truth of the matter is that his lie could have serious consequences for former President Obama. Trump supporters believe whatever Trump says. What if one of them tried to harm Obama as retribution? Would that make Trump’s lie criminal?
The First Amendment of the Constitution affords people the right to free speech without government censorship. Nevertheless, constitutional law has its limits. Free speech does not give one the right to incite actions that could harm others. The classic example is falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. The mayhem that could ensue may harm numerous people as people stampede toward the exit.
What about falsely accusing his predecessor of wiretapping him, causing one of his supporters to stage an attack? Probably not. The only way “incitement” would be found is if the speech is substantially likely of causing some illegal activity and the speech is directed to causing it. Hypothetically if President Trump encouraged or asked his supporters to harm his predecessor, he could be prosecuted for incitement. But he didn’t.
There doesn’t seem to be any recourse for Trump’s incessant lying. Perhaps Congress may discuss impeachment, but that seems unlikely. Here’s to hoping he’s impeached on some other grounds and soon.