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Over the weekend, President Trump took to Twitter to accuse former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election — but where did those baseless claims come from? There seems to be a fairly clear path of information, and the allegation can be traced back to conservative radio host Mark Levin, who mentioned wiretapping during his show on March 2.
Levin argued on Thursday that the Obama administration wiretapped the Trump campaign while investigating whether Russia might have interfered in the election. “The question is: was Obama surveilling top Trump campaign officials during the election?” he asked. “We absolutely know this is true, the FBI did a preliminary criminal investigation based on a potential connection between a server in Trump Tower and a couple of Russian banks.”
Breitbart then picked up the unfounded story on Friday, March 3, calling out Levin’s plea for Congress to investigate Obama’s so-called “silent coup,” and Trump’s tweets followed on Saturday morning. From there, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced the White House’s call for such an investigation, mentioning Trump’s request that, as part of the investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees also “determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
This direct chain of communication from conservative media to the White House was recently explored by John Oliver, who took a closer look at where Trump likes to get his information on a February episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Oliver explained that, in one instance, the effects were seen immediately. Just 15 minutes after Fox News aired a segment about Chelsea Manning being an ungrateful traitor who called President Obama a weak leader, Trump tweeted the same thing, using the same words.
With such an obvious sequence of events, it’s important to acknowledge where President Trump’s information is coming from. In this case, who is Mark Levin? The radio host and author began his career in government, and he served in the Reagan administration as associate director of presidential personnel and chief of staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese. He joined the radio scene in 2002 with the help of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and, as The Washington Post puts it, he’s a “staunch champion of constitutional originalism” who regularly refers to the United States as detached from its core principles.
This is not the first time Levin has accused Obama of a “silent coup” either — in July 2015, he said Obama was forcing his health care and immigration policies on the American people. Those, however, were not taken seriously by top government officials.
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