The New York Times reported last month that "intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election."
According to conservative radio host Mark Levin, that's proof that the Times is contradicting itself — along with the rest of the mainstream media and, among others, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, who on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday denied the existence of a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Trump or his aides and associates.
Levin's logic: How can anyone say there is no evidence of wiretapping when recent news reports state that calls involving Trump campaign aides were intercepted?
"They're all pivoting, including the media," Levin said during an appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News show Monday. "They were trying to present the case of overwhelming connections, overwhelming concern, overwhelming potential evidence of Trump and the campaign involved with the Russians. Now it's, 'Wait a minute. No.' ... Now they're saying, 'Wait a minute. We didn't have a FISA warrant. We didn't do these wiretaps, eavesdropping, electronic surveillance.' Now the media are completely confounded."
Actually, Levin is confounded. Or he is trying to confound everyone who listens to him.
The Times's Feb. 14 report on intercepted calls also said this:
The National Security Agency, which monitors the communications of foreign intelligence services, initially captured the calls between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russians as part of routine foreign surveillance. (Emphasis added)
The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In those calls, which led to Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December.
But the cases are part of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ routine electronic surveillance of the communications of foreign officials. (Emphasis added)
Nothing in the Times report — or any other credible news report — suggests wiretapping of anyone associated with Trump. Rather, the report makes clear that Russians' phones were tapped in the course of routine foreign surveillance, which led to the discovery that some of those Russians were communicating with Trump aides and associates.
This is a critical distinction that Levin is blurring — intentionally or not. Despite his claim that "the media is turning on the media," there is nothing contradictory about previous reporting on intercepted calls and the press's current skepticism about the wiretapping of Trump Tower.