Barack Obama’s spokesman Kevin Lewis has issued a statement on his behalf responding to President Trump’s tweets about the wiretaps of his office.
The statement reads as follows
A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
This statement is classic Obama. It appears on its face to be clear and complete, but in reality it is nothing of the sort.
The statement does not deny that Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower was wiretapped. Nor does it deny that Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ (a flexible word the precise meaning of which has never been made clear) or members of his campaign team were placed under surveillance.
Instead it indirectly denies that Obama himself or people working directly under him in the White House ordered these actions. It does so by denying they have ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen, something which by the way is almost certainly true.
The statement hints than any order to wiretap Donald Trump’s office or for carrying out surveillance on Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ was the work of officials in the Justice Department, and it seeks to shift responsibility – or blame – onto them.
This too is almost certainly true. However it neglects to say that some of these officials were people whom Obama himself appointed, and who were therefore part of his administration.
Obama’s statement is a lawyer’s reply. Obama is of course himself a lawyer, but there is no doubt this statement was prepared after consultation with his lawyers. In fact they probably drafted it.
We are at a very early stage in this matter. There are multiple investigations underway, some launched by the outgoing Obama administration against the incoming Trump administration, and some launched by the current Trump administration against the preceding Obama administration. There are also separate inquiries underway in Congress. It seems there are rules prohibiting public discussion of these inquiries or even in some cases disclosure of their existence.
Obama’s highly legalistic statement today – which reads very much like a defence statement – however gives a good flavour of the direction some of these inquiries are taking, and of the sort of defence of his actions which Obama – if pressed – will make. As I have said previously, there is no doubt the wiretaps were legal since they were approved by a court. Unsurprisingly therefore Obama is taking a legal route to defend himself.