- Aaron Bernstein/Reuters
An under-the-radar interview between Fox News host Bret Baier and House Speaker Paul Ryan may provide some additional clues as to why President Donald Trump tweeted explosive claims earlier this month that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, wiretapped his phones.
The Friday-night interview, which occurred just hours before Trump’s tweets the next morning, contained an exchange between Baier and Ryan. A misunderstanding during that exchange appeared to make it seem as if the House speaker had confirmed the wiretap allegations about Trump Tower.
“There’s a report that June 2016, there’s a FISA request by the Obama administration, foreign intelligence surveillance court, to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several other campaign officials,” Baier said. “Then they get turned down, and then in October they renew it and they do start a wiretap at Trump Tower with some computer and Russian banks and it doesn’t show up anything, by reporting. Have you heard that?”
Ryan, speaking from Janesville, Wisconsin, answered that he had no proof any Trump officials had colluded with Russia.
Here’s how the exchange progressed (emphasis added):
Ryan: “Well, again, like I said, none of us in Congress or anybody I know in Congress has been presented with anything to the contrary of what you just said.”
Baier: “So you believe it to be true?”
Ryan: “Yeah, we have seen no evidence that anybody in this campaign or any other American was in on it with the Russians to meddle in our elections. …”
Baier: “I got it, but by point is is that the Obama administration was pretty aggressive, a couple of FISA requests.”
Ryan: “No, I hear your point. I see nothing of that. I’ve seen nothing come of that. That’s my point.”
It was reported previously that Trump was presented with a Breitbart article discussing claims of wiretapping that originated on conservative radio host Mark Levin’s program. Trump reportedly posted the tweets after he was presented with the Breitbart piece.
But in his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson Wednesday night, Trump also repeatedly mentioned Baier as a source of his claims.
“I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping,” Trump said. “I said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about. I’ve been seeing a lot of things.”
“And I think if you watch – if you watched the Bret Baier and what he was saying and what he was talking about and how he mentioned the word wiretap, you would feel very confident that you could mention the name,” he later added. “He mentioned it. And other people have mentioned it.”
Speaking at his Thursday news conference, Ryan was asked about Trump’s Carlson interview, which the House speaker said he had not seen. Ryan said the claims from Trump were found to lack evidence, based on statements from the leading members of the House Intelligence Committee.
He also said he was unaware of the claims until asked by Baier in his Fox interview.
“After we heard about this, we did see a number of press reports that made this allegation, that made this suggestion,” Ryan said. “So, yeah, those press reports did exist. Frankly, I didn’t know about it until Bret Baier asked me about it. So this was something I was unaware of until we did see a few press reports on this.”
“But the point is, the intelligence committees in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigation of all things Russia got to the bottom, at least so far, with respect to our intelligence community that no such wiretap existed,” he continued, later adding, “We’ve seen no evidence of that.”