There are three possibilities that explain Donald Trump's Saturday-morning Twitter tantrum, in which he accused - absent a shred of evidence beyond a rant from a talk-show host that was regurgitated in a Breitbard post - former president Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the campaign. None bodes particularly well for the ostensible leader of the free world.
The first and most likely explanation is that he's dead wrong, and, like everyone else, he shouldn't rely on Stephen Bannon's propaganda shop for information, particularly when he controls one of the most sophisticated intelligence apparatuses in the world. This suggests, at minimum that the president is an unusually credulous man. (The conservative Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes has White House sources acknowledging "that Trump had no idea whether the claims he was making were true when he made them.")
The second is that there was a wiretap, but it was legal. In this case, the FBI went before a federal judge or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, presented evidence, and procured a warrant. That's not a good look either. (On Sunday, Obama's director of national intelligence flatly denied that there was a FISA warrant taken out against Trump. The FBI director also reportedly asked the Department of Justice to publicly rebuke the president's claim as false.)
The third is that Obama went rogue and had his goons bug Trump Tower. If true, of course, Trump has every right to be upset. Then again, you'd think that, had Trump really uncovered a criminal scheme surpassing Watergate, he wouldn't have immediately returned to a Twitter feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger about Celebrity Apprentice.
All of this is to say: the president's not well.
Pick your poison. In the best-case scenario, he exercises poor judgment and impulse control. In less-good scenarios, he's unstable, gullible, and paranoid. In the very worst case, he's trying to cover up his campaign's collusion with an adversarial foreign power that helped elect him.
Of course, there's no evidence for that yet. No fire, just a lot of smoke—certainly enough to warrant an investigation.
The question, then, is who should lead it?
Bowing to political pressure, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who lied under oath about his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, has recused himself from any DOJ investigation. But given his ties to this emerging scandal, can his department be trusted to handle the matter? Clearly not. What about Congress? The House and Senate intelligence committees are supposed to be exploring Russian interference.
But the Republican heads of those committees—Representative Devin Nunes of California and Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina—have shown little appetite for the kind of robust investigation a potential scandal of this magnitude demands. In fact, late last month, Nunes and Burr—on orders from the White House—called reporters to try to knock down stories about relationships between the Trump orbit and Russia.
That's exactly why a special prosecutor is needed—to disentangle the politics and the conflicts of interest and figure out what the hell is going on.
So let's have it out. On Sunday, the Trump White House asked the intelligence committees to investigate Trump's Obama accusations. ("It's not paranoia at all," Nunes said dutifully.) Let's kick that to a special prosecutor, along with the Russia stuff, and get to the heart of it. Maybe there's something sinister there. Maybe not. Who knows?
But I do know that something's dangerously amiss with the commander in chief. And it's time for those with the power to stop him—i.e., high-ranking Republicans willing to put country before party—to recognize that, show some courage, and act accordingly. It's time for them to speak out.
I'm looking at you, Richard Burr.
This article appeared in print with the headline “The President’s Not Well."