Josh Earnest was on ABC’s This Week and was interviewed by Martha Raddatz. I have to give her credit. After she let him get in his cutesy-pie dig about Trump’s tweets she nailed his butt to the wall.
RADDATZ: We know about that denial from President Obama and the law as well. As President Obama’s former speechwriter, Jon Favreau, your former colleague, tweeted: “I’d be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the White House ordered it.”
Can you categorically deny that the Obama Justice Department did not seek and obtain a FISA court order?
EARNEST: What I can categorically deny, Martha, is that the White House was at all involved in directing or interfering or influencing an FBI investigation of any sort.
RADDATZ: That’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is, can you deny that the Obama Justice Department did not seek and obtain a FISA court-ordered wiretap of the Trump campaign?
EARNEST: It was a cardinal rule — here’s the simple answer to that question, is, Martha, I don’t know. And it’s not because I’m no longer in government. The fact is, even when I was in government, I was not in a position of being regularly briefed on an FBI criminal or counterintelligence investigation.
The White House — no one at the White House, including the president of the United States, should be in a position in which they’re trying to influence or dictate how that investigation is being conducted.
RADDATZ: Do you to know with whether the president was ever given information about surveillance at Trump Tower?
EARNEST: What I can tell you — well, first of all, I’m not aware of all of the details of how the president was briefed by the FBI. But what I can tell you is the president was not giving marching orders to the FBI about how to conduct their investigations. He was not asking for regular updates on FBI investigations.
And let me just stipulate one more time, you have to ask the FBI whether there actually is an investigation into Mr. Trump, his associates, his campaign. That’s for them to talk about. That is not something that was talked about or directed or managed by the White House, because this is a cardinal rule. These are rules that have been in place since Watergate, and for good reason.
Again we get the denial that Obama personally sneaked into Trump Tower and placed a wiretap, something which no ones is alleging to begin with. Earnest was part of Obama’s inner circle. There is no way surveillance of a candidate for president was going to happen without Obama being informed. There was no way Obama was going to know about it and Earnest not know just in case one of the stump broken members of the White House Press Corps went off the reservation and asked the question.
There are two questions that Earnest will not answer even though he easily could if only by saying “to the best of my knowledge.” He is asked of a FISA warrant was requested. No answer. He is asked if Obama was told of this. No answer.
Raddatz follows this up by asking Earnest if the administration did spread classified information about Washington concerning Trump (see my story here).
RADDATZ: Well, let me ask you something directly involving the Obama administration that was in The New York Times this week, saying that the Obama administration rushed to preserve intelligence that Russians hacked the election and that Mr. Trump’s statement doubting the intelligence and saying the Russian story was hyped “stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed once power changed hands.”
Was there a scramble to spread information about the Russian efforts in the final days of the administration?
RADDATZ: Was The New York Times correct saying there was a scramble to spread information about the Russian efforts in the final days of the administration?
EARNEST: I did not speak to the journalist for that New York Times story. What I can tell you is what the White House did. And what the White House did was order the intelligence community to conduct this review.
They released the results of that review on the president’s order, an unclassified version. And what the president said is, it’s important for the intelligence community to be honest and to brief senior officials in the U.S. government.
So, yes, they did give briefings to senior officials, Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives, in the United States Senate, and even to the president-elect in his office, because it was important for people to understand exactly what Russia did to interfere in this election. And it was important for the president-elect’s team to understand what they were going to confront once in office.
Earnest continued to elude capture and Raddatz gave up and moved on after committing a couple of minutes of actual journalism.
I think we are at the point where we can put at least half of this story to rest. Yes. The Obama administration did, in fact, carry out some form of surveillance on the Trump campaign. The surveillance request was a FISA, not an Article 3 warrant. Nothing of much interest seems to have come of the surveillance. We still don’t know the target of the surveillance or if the affidavit used to justify the surveillance was accurate.