Seeking to defend President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, pro-Trump fringe right-wing blog Gateway Pundit falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton knew -- and tweeted about -- the wiretapping a week before the election. The claim, which spread among fake news purveyors and made its way to Fox News, mischaracterized Clinton’s tweet, which was actually about a Slate article discussing supposed connections between a Trump server and a Russian bank.
Trump Baselessly Accused Obama Of Wiretapping Trump Tower
Trump Pushed Baseless Right-Wing Media Claim That Obama Administration Spied On Him During Election. President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of improperly tapping Trump’s communications during the presidential campaign. In a series of tweets, Trump cited no evidence to support his allegation, which, according to BuzzFeed, “appears to have followed a path through the pro-Trump media” and may have been sparked by a right-wing radio host’s commentary that was featured in a Breitbart.com post. From the March 4 report:
Without offering a scintilla of evidence, President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of spying on him by ordering the wiretapping of phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign — a charge the former leader denied.
Like much of what Trump tweets, the Obama wiretap claim appears to have followed a path through the pro-Trump media. The president may have been referring to an article from alt-right media outlet Breitbart, which makes claims that Obama worked to undermine Trump during the election. The Breitbart story references a segment from conservative commentator Mark Levin’s Thursday night radio show in which he said Obama used surveillance techniques to gather information on Trump.
In a series of early morning tweets on Saturday, Trump shared the claims: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
In further tweets, Trump claimed a “good lawyer could make a great case” out of the alleged phone-tapping.
He also called Obama a “bad (or sick) guy,” comparing him to former President Richard Nixon and the infamous Watergate scandal. [BuzzFeed, 3/4/17]
To Back Up Trump’s False Claim, Gateway Pundit Pointed To Clinton Tweet To Suggest She Knew About The Wiretapping
Gateway Pundit: “Hillary Was Tipped Off On Trump Wiretap – Tweeted About It One Week Prior to Election.” Gateway Pundit claimed that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “was tipped off to the wiretapping prior to the election” because of a “tweet from October 31st” about “computer scientists.” The website urged people to “connect the dots” between the tweet and a meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, adding, “This was a well coordinated attack on a Presidential candidate.” From the March 5 article:
TGP reported earlier that the first FISA request came right after AG Loretta Lynch met with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in June of 2016.
The second FISA request was submitted in October of 2016 just before the election. Hillary Clinton sent out a tweet on October 31st stating that ‘computer scientists have uncovered a covert server linking the Trump organization to a Russian-based server’.
It appears she was tipped off to the wiretapping prior to the election.
Here is Hillary Clinton’s tweet from October 31st… Computer scientists?… Connect the dots, folks. This was a well coordinated attack on a Presidential candidate. AG Lynch met with Bill Clinton just before the first FISA request.
After they were successful with the second FISA request in October, it appears Bill Clinton passed on the information to his wife to help her win the election. This scandal is about to blow wide open; it’s not going away any time soon. Stay tuned… [The Gateway Pundit, 3/5/17]
Clinton’s Tweet Referred To A Slate Article About Supposed Connections Between A Trump Server And A Russian Bank
Hillary Clinton: “Computer Scientists Have Apparently Uncovered A Covert Server Linking The Trump Organization To A Russian-Based Bank.” The tweet from Clinton’s account says, “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” The tweet includes a press release from her presidential campaign “in response to a new report from Slate showing that the Trump Organization has a secret server registered to Trump Tower that has been covertly communicating with Russia.”
Slate: “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?” A few hours before the Clinton tweet, Slate had published an article headlined “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?” The article claimed that computer scientists found “a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank,” a Russian bank. The author, Franklin Foer, later wrote an article acknowledging criticism of the article’s premise. [Slate, 10/31/16, 11/2/16]
Fake News Purveyors Ran With Gateway Pundit’s False Conspiracy Theory
USA Politics Today: “Hillary Clinton Knew About The Trump Wiretaps! See Her Own Tweet Expose Herself!” Fake news purveyor USA Politics Today, linking to The Gateway Pundit’s article, claimed that Clinton “was so cocky that she was going to win that she tweeted out during the election something that makes so much more sense now. ... ‘Computer scientists’ just means wiretaps.” From the March 5 article:
With the news of President Obama wiretapping President Trump and Trump Tower during the election it only makes sense that Hillary Clinton would have known about the wiretaps.
And can you imagine who it was that revealed that Hillary Clinton knew about the wiretaps on President Trump?
Hillary Clinton herself.
She was so cocky that she was going to win that she tweeted out during the election something that makes so much more sense now.
“Computer scientists” just means wiretaps. Hillary Clinton just gave herself up!
TruthFeed: Clinton’s Tweet “Sure Seems To Indicate” She “Had Prior Knowledge Of The Wiretapping.” Fake news purveyor TruthFeed claimed that Clinton “released a tweet filled with innuendo which sure seems to indicate Hillary had prior knowledge of the wiretapping,” adding, “We believe she 100% knew the wiretapping was taking place.” From the March 6 article (emphasis original):
In her efforts to smear the future 45th President of the United States, Team Clinton released a tweet filled with innuendo which sure seems to indicate Hillary had prior knowledge of the wiretapping.
See the damning tweet below and draw your own conclusions. We believe she 100% knew the wiretapping was taking place.
Let’s not forget former Bush Attorney General Mukasey believes the wiretapping was ordered by Loretta Lynch.
The same Loretta Lynch whose was (sic) busted holding a sleazy secret meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac.
Angry Patriot: Clinton’s Tweet “Proves She Had A Heads-Up About The Wiretapping.” Fake news purveyor The Angry Patriot, linking to the Gateway Pundit article, claimed that Clinton’s tweet “proves she had a heads-up about the wiretapping of Trump Tower, and used the information to try to push the fake Russian-connection narrative.” It suggested that former President Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch “talked about” “the need to wiretap Trump,” adding, “If Hillary’s ‘computer scientist’ pals had actually found a smoking gun, they would have used it BEFORE we voted.” From the article:
Hillary Clinton’s tweet proves she had a heads-up about the wiretapping of Trump Tower, and used the information to try to push the fake Russian-connection narrative.
The first FISA request to tap the Republican nominee’s home came right after Bill Clinton met with then Attorney General Loretta Lynch privately on a Tarmac in Phoenix, the Gateway Pundit reports.
So that’s what Bill and Loretta talked about — the need to wiretap Trump? No one will ever know for sure what the former president and the Attorney General actually chatted about, because reporters were not allowed inside the plane during the clandestine and highly improper meeting in June.
If Hillary’s “computer scientist” pals had actually found a smoking gun, they would have used it BEFORE we voted. This scandal is not over folks, it is just beginning. [The Angry Patriot, accessed 3/7/17; Media Matters, 12/14/16]
The Conspiracy Theory Then Made Its Way To Fox News
Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: If Clinton Didn’t Know About Wiretapping, “How Do You Explain This Tweet?” Fox co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked former Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook how he could “explain this tweet” if Clinton did not know about supposed wiretapping requests regarding Trump associates. Mook pointed out that the tweet “was actually in response to reporting that was done by Slate magazine.” From the March 7 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The timing is very interesting. Because you tried to get with the FISA report in the summer. That didn't work out. So then in the fall, right when Hillary Clinton's numbers were going down, when it looked like she might not win this election, then there’s another request to wiretap, allegedly, according to these reports. What did Hillary Clinton know and what was her involvement?
ROBBY MOOK: Well, Hillary Clinton didn't know about any of this. I mean, let's be very clear here.
EARHARDT: Then how do you explain this tweet? “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.”
MOOK: Well, I think you should ask your research department to go back and look. That was actually in response to reporting that was done by Slate magazine. So she was reacting to what reporters were saying, just like we’re now reacting to what reporters are saying. I think that that cyber link that got reported, that that tweet was in reaction to, should be investigated too. I think it is weird that there was some sort of cyberlink with Trump Tower. But we need to get the facts. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/17]