A Conspiracy Theory’s Journey From Talk Radio to Trump’s Twitter
WASHINGTON — It began at 6 p.m. Thursday as a conspiratorial rant on conservative talk radio: President Barack Obama had used the “instrumentalities of the federal government” to wiretap the Republican seeking to succeed him. This “is the big scandal,” Mark Levin, the host, told his listeners.
华盛顿——事情始于周四晚上6点。一档保守派电台脱口秀上响起一阵阴谋论咆哮：贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)总统曾使用“联邦政府的手段”监听那个寻求接替他的共和党人。节目主持人马克·莱文(Mark Levin)对听众说，这是“大丑闻”。
By Friday morning, the unsubstantiated allegation had been picked up by Breitbart News, the site once headed by President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Less than 24 hours later, the president embraced the conspiracy in a series of Twitter posts accusing his predecessor of spying on him, setting in motion the latest head-spinning, did-he-really-say-that furor of Trump’s 6-week-old presidency.
到周五上午，曾由唐纳德·特朗普总统的首席策略师史蒂芬·班农(Stephen Bannon)领导的网站布莱巴特新闻(Breitbart News)报道了这一未经证实的指控。不到24小时后，特朗普总统在Twitter上的一系列帖子中相信了这个阴谋，指责前任暗中监视自己，引发了他担任总统六周以来的最新一起令人头晕目眩的事件，人们纷纷惊呼，总统真的说出这种话来？
Previous presidents usually measured their words to avoid a media feeding frenzy, but Trump showed again over the weekend that he feeds off the frenzy. Uninhibited by the traditional protocols of his office, he makes the most incendiary assertions based on shreds of suspicion. He does so without consulting some of his most senior aides, or even agencies of his own government that might have contrary information. After setting off a public firestorm with no proof, he then calls for an investigation to find the missing evidence.
To his adversaries, Trump’s bomb-throwing seems like a calculated strategy to distract from another story he wants to avoid. In this case, they said Sunday, he clearly wanted to turn the conversation away from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself last week from any federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia in response to reports that he had met with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential race. Instead of what Sessions did or did not do, the Sunday talk shows were dominated by discussion about what Obama did or did not do.
But in shifting the story, Trump also kept the Russia investigation front and center, rather than his initiatives on health care, taxes or jobs. His first address to Congress, which won him plaudits for being presidential, was last week but now feels ages ago. Even some Republicans pointed out that if an eavesdropping warrant had been approved, it would mean that a judge was convinced that someone in Trump’s circle might have committed a crime or acted as a foreign agent.
“I’m very worried that our president is suggesting that the former president has done something illegally,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told the audience at a town hall-style meeting in his home state over the weekend. At the same time, he said, “I would be very worried if, in fact, the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity with a foreign government.”
The White House remained firm Sunday even after Obama’s office denied ordering a wiretap and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there had been no wiretapping of Trump or his campaign. James Comey, the FBI director, privately asked the Justice Department to issue a statement that Trump’s claim was false, senior officials said, but the department had not done so as of Sunday evening.
周日，即便在奥巴马的办公室否认曾下令监听，前国家情报总监詹姆斯·克拉珀(James Clapper)也在NBC的《会见媒体》(Meet the Press)节目上表示没有监听特朗普或其竞选团队后，白宫依然态度坚决。高级官员称，联邦调查局(FBI)局长詹姆斯·科米(James Comey)曾在私底下请求司法部发布一份声明，宣布特朗普的说法不实，但截至周日晚上，司法部尚未这么做。
“Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea and just threw it out there,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said on “This Week” on ABC News. “There are multiple news outlets that have reported this. And all we’re asking is that we get the same level of look into the Obama administration and the potential that they had for a complete abuse of power that they’ve been claiming that we have done over the last six months.”
“大家的表现好像是说，这件事是特朗普总统凭空想出来然后公布的，”白宫发言人萨拉·赫卡比·桑德斯(Sarah Huckabee Sanders)在ABC新闻(ABC News)的《本周》(This Week)节目上说。“已有多家新闻机构报道此事。我们想要的，只是对奥巴马政府和他们完全滥用权力的可能性进行同等程度的调查。过去六个月里，他们一直声称我们滥用权力。”
Sanders pointed to reports in “multiple outlets,” including The New York Times, as the foundation for the allegation. Levin, the radio host, likewise read from a series of mainstream news reports during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Sunday.
桑德斯提到了包括《纽约时报》在内的“多家新闻机构”的报道，作为相关指控的依据。周日现身《福克斯与朋友们》(Fox & Friends)节目时，前述电台主持人莱文同样是从一系列主流新闻报道中了解相关情况的。
“The evidence is overwhelming,” he said. “This is not about President Trump’s tweeting. This is about the Obama administration’s spying, and the question isn’t whether it spied.” He added, “The question is who they did spy on, the extent of the spying — that is, the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, Trump surrogates.”
But the news organizations he and Sanders cited have not reported that Obama tapped Trump’s phones, as the president claimed on Twitter. The Times has reported that several of Trump’s associates are being investigated for their connections with Russians and that law enforcement agencies have examined intercepted communications. It has not reported that those associates themselves have necessarily been wiretapped, but it has reported surveillance of Russians, which is commonplace.
News outlets have noted that a phone call between Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, was monitored, leading to Flynn’s resignation because his account of the conversation did not match the intercept. It is common for the United States to monitor the communications of Russia’s ambassador.
新闻机构指出，特朗普的首位国家安全顾问迈克尔·弗林(Michael Flynn)与俄罗斯驻美大使谢尔盖·基斯利亚克(Sergei Kislyak)的一次电话通话被监听了，导致弗林辞职，因为他对那次通话的描述与监听到的内容不符。美国监听俄罗斯大使的通讯是常事。
The Times also reported that before leaving office, Obama officials tried to spread information about Russian meddling in the election and possible links between Russia and Trump associates, in order to leave a trail for government investigators.
Aides say Trump went into Friday in a foul mood. He had not known ahead of time that Sessions planned to recuse himself and never thought he should, even after Sessions acknowledged that he had talked to Kislyak despite suggesting otherwise in his Senate confirmation hearing.
Trump told some advisers that he thought Sessions had fumbled his answer at that hearing. But on Friday morning in an angry session in the Oval Office, the president railed at aides about the recusal, singling out the White House counsel’s office and the communications staff in a tirade visible through the window to a nearby television camera.
Still upset after arriving at Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump woke up Saturday morning and began posting on Twitter at 6:26 a.m. In a burst of six messages, he tried to turn the tables by noting that members of the Obama administration also met with Russia’s ambassador. Without citing a source, he asserted that Obama had tapped his phones, and compared it to Watergate. “Bad (or sick) guy,” the president wrote.
While the political world erupted over the allegation, Trump was adamant in conversations throughout the day that he was on to something. His chief strategist, Bannon, the former Breitbart chairman, flew down to Florida with Don McGahn, the White House counsel, on Saturday.
Late Saturday morning, Trump’s aides spoke about how to get him to stop posting on Twitter, to avoid opening himself up to further problems. He golfed a little, then returned to the club and began working the phones. By Sunday, advisers said, he was fuming that more people were not defending him.
And so he doubled down, calling for a congressional investigation.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Twitter. Until then, he said, the president will not comment further.