The story that may have prompted President Donald Trump to accuse the Obama administration of wiretapping Trump Tower seems to have originated at someone’s kitchen sink.
The person who wrote the article is Joel Pollak, an editor at the far-right website Breitbart News. He said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” that the idea of potential spying at Trump Tower during the 2016 election came to him while he was washing dishes and listening to a popular conservative radio host.
“It was late at night and I was washing dishes, listening to Mark Levin’s show from earlier in the day, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,'” Pollak said. “I had seen all these articles, but nobody had actually put the case together the way Levin had.”
Host Chuck Todd challenged that, asking Pollak whether he had oversold Levin’s conclusions in writing his story. The Breitbart editor cited numerous well-reported stories from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others that have indicated US intelligence officials were investigating possible ties between Russian operatives and people in Trump’s inner circle. (None of those stories, however, made the specific claims Trump did.)
Pollak said the stories, which almost exclusively cited anonymous sources, were being “treated as established reality” to build a case about Russian influence in the 2016 US election. He said that in writing in his own story, he relied on the wiretapping scenario pitched by Levin.
Trump made the claims in tweets nearly two weeks ago. In a Fox News interview Wednesday night, the president indicated he had no concrete evidence to support his claims. “I’ve been reading things,” Trump said, while pointing to a New York Times article and remarks that a Fox News host made on the subject.
Trump implied that some evidence would eventually surface.
“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” he said.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chair, said on Wednesday that there was no such evidence.
Multiple staffers from the Obama administration have denied that the former president ordered a spying operation against Trump. Experts say a president cannot unilaterally order surveillance on an individual in the US.