Judge Andrew Napolitano made a stunning claim Monday that could recast the whole debate over President Donald Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones during the run-up to last year’s election:
Obama would not have needed a special surveillance court’s OK to wiretap the then-GOP presidential nominee, Napolitano said. Instead, Obama could have merely taken advantage of measures already on the books.
The Fox News senior judicial analyst cited two little-known federal provisions — the USA Freedom Act of 2015 and former President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 13222 — to argue that their wording, taken together, provided the National Security Agency with the right “to capture, in real time, the digital copies of everybody’s phone calls, cell and landline, everybody’s key strokes, mobile device and desktop.”
And if the NSA analysts have that information, Napolitano said, the president of the United States can have it, too.
“The NSA works for the president,” Napolitano said. “If the president were to ask for a transcribed copy of any of that, they’d give it to him. The president of the United States can order surveillance on any person inside the United States in conjunction with a certificate or a certification filed by the attorney general.”
While Napolitano said such an action, in his opinion, would be “profoundly unconstitutional” it would be within the framework of the law.
“It is legal because the statute says it,” he said.
Therefore, if Obama really had sought to wiretap Trump, as Trump has claimed, then it would not have made sense for him to obtain a warrant.
“Think about this — if you’re Barack Obama, and you have the ability by making a phone call to hear what Donald Trump is saying, are you going to bother to get a warrant?” the judge asked rhetorically. “Why would you get a warrant?”
Of course, the Obama administration did obtain a warrant for the alleged purpose of tracking a “mysterious back channel” between computers from a Russian bank and servers at Trump Tower, but the warrant reportedly contained no direct references to the then-GOP nominee and the subsequent investigation revealed no connection whatsoever between the Trump organization and the Russians.
Listen to Napolitano below:
According to Fox News, Obama’s representatives have been adamant in their assertion that the former president never sought to wiretap Trump.
“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,” a spokesman said Saturday. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
But one thing’s for sure: Napolitano’s take could open up a whole new set of questions on a story that isn’t going away.
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H/T The Daily Caller