The New York Times ran a story this week titled, “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones,” but a look at ”The Gray Lady's" own stories might understandably leave some, maybe even the president, confused.
One week before the election, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s servers at Trump Tower were being exploited and his emails were being read to find out whether there were any nefarious connections to Russian leaders:
Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.
Days later, Heatstreet broke a story about the Feds snooping into the server at the Trump Tower:
The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the second was drawn more narrowly and was granted in October after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank.
Then, on the day before Trump’s Inauguration, The New York Times wrote about four federal agencies, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and Treasury, taking point on the probe — which used the words “wiretapped data.” But then, for some reason, the Times changed its headline:
The newspaper notes in a paler shade of gray at the bottom of the story that the headline used to read:
“A version of this article appears in print on January 20, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”
The changed headline reads:
“Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates”
“The Gray Lady” often changes headlines between the digital and paper and other versions of its stories, but doesn’t say why it switched this one. A check on the website Newsdiffs.org revealed no information about the story.
The NYT did, however, report on wiretapping in the piece:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself.
... The F.B.I. is leading the investigations, aided by the National Security Agency, the C.I.A. and the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit. The investigators have accelerated their efforts in recent weeks but have found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said. One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House. [emphasis added]
The story was also reported by CNN:
That night, on the eve of the Inauguration, Rachel Maddow read from the story on her show:
And she added:
“This is obviously a very inflammatory, obviously a very hot story. These new details coming out the eve of the Inauguration is a bombshell ... "
At least five other news agencies reported on the investigation and ran stories divulging information about phone calls and meetings between Trump allies and Russians.
In another NYT piece dated March 1, wiretaps, Trump, and Putin were all connected in one story entitled, “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.”
In that article, The Times never mentions the word “wiretaps” — but does include references to “calls” made by the Russian ambassador and Trump national security adviser, Lt General Michael Flynn. The paragraphs confirm that The Times was given information about the calls — which obviously means someone was listening and transcribing them:
The concerns about the contacts were cemented by a series of phone calls between Mr. Kislyak and Michael T. Flynn, who had been poised to become Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. The calls began on Dec. 29, shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions. Mr. Kislyak was irate and threatened a forceful Russia response, according to people familiar with the exchange.
The story continues:
On Jan. 2, administration officials learned that Mr. Kislyak — after leaving the State Department meeting — called Mr. Flynn, and that the two talked multiple times in the 36 hours that followed. American intelligence agencies routinely wiretap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, according to multiple current and former officials.
Three days after that New York Times story, Trump issued his shocking tweet accusing former President Obama spying on him before the election by ... wiretapping his phone at Trump Tower:
The Times followed up with this story:
The piece was entitled, “Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones."
It’s true that the president provided “no evidence” of wiretapped calls, maybe because he doesn’t have it, or maybe because to do so would be illegal.
It’s also true that not one reporter in any of the above stories about wiretaps and spying named a source, either.
The president had plenty of stories he could point to showing that some on his campaign team were investigated — spied on — by the government which, at that time, was under the direction of President Obama.
It’s unclear whether the president was briefed on the issue by his own national security team, but it is clear that he could have drawn his own conclusions simply by reading the stories published in ... The New York Times.