Donald Trump created so much controversy by calling Haiti a “shithole” on Thursday afternoon that by day’s end, many had forgotten how the day had started. Trump went into a panic on Thursday morning when he learned that the House was about to vote on renewing FISA eavesdropping warrant authorization, and he sent out a tweet which nearly derailed his own party’s efforts. In so doing, Trump gave away something he probably shouldn’t have.
Trump misunderstood something that was said on Fox News, which led him to conclude that the House was voting on FISA eavesdropping against United States citizens, when in fact it was voting on FISA eavesdropping against foreign nationals on foreign soil. Trump sent out this frantic tweet: “House votes on controversial FISA ACT today. This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
Trump panicked because he thought the House was voting to reauthorize the kinds of FISA warrants that were used to eavesdrop on the alleged criminals in his 2016 campaign, including campaign chairman Paul Manafort and foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Manafort has been arrested and is awaiting trial, while Page’s status is unclear, but the point is this: federal investigators convinced judges to sign off on these warrants in a process that could not possibly have involved President Obama. That part didn’t even really matter to Trump, so much as the prospect of FISA warrants continuing to be used against his own alleged criminal co-conspirators.
So let’s break this down. Donald Trump became panicked at the mistaken thought that domestic FISA warrants might be re-upped. He obviously fears what the previous warrants against people like Manafort may have turned up about him. In fact, based on the timeline, Trump has probably been picked up on Manafort’s wiretap. Only Trump knows what he said during those phone calls, but he just gave away that he knows he’s been nailed. The mere mention of “FISA” now sends him into a panic.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report