— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 7, 2017
There aren't many — or any — good answers for President Trump's spokesmen to give when it comes to his strange and evidence-free claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 campaign. But this one might take the cake.
NBC's Hallie Jackson tried to get at this question in a little different way at the daily White House briefing on Tuesday. She asked press secretary Sean Spicer why Trump wanted Congress to investigate something he already apparently knows and why he wouldn't share his evidence with it.
And she got an answer that was, well, different: Separation of powers.
Here's the transcript:
JACKSON: You've said the president stands by his tweets from Saturday morning that President Obama ordered this wiretap. You've also said the administration wants Congress — and let's be clear, you said he also found out this information — you've also said the president wants Congress to investigate. Some members of Congress, by the way, have asked the White House and asked the president to come forward with that information. So, bottom line: Why would the president want Congress to investigate for information he already has?
SPICER: I think there's a separation-of-powers aspect here, as I mentioned to Jonathan …
JACKSON: But you talk about resources and time. Why waste that?
SPICER: Well, it's not a question of waste it. It's a question of appropriateness.
JACKSON: But if the president has this information, if he's sitting on information that he found out, he's now directing or asking or recommending that the intelligence committees look into this. And you talked about — they have resources and staff, which they do. But why expend those resources and staff if the president found out this information and has it?
SPICER: I think there's a difference between directing the Department of Justice, which may be involved in an ongoing investigation, and asking Congress, as a separate body, to look into something and add credibility to the look [ph] — adds an element that wouldn't necessarily be there if we were directing the Department of Justice, for example.
Spicer's answer falls apart toward the end. But the essence of his comments, from top to bottom, seems to suggest that Trump is asking for an investigation of — but can't share his information about — Obama wiretapping him because it would somehow violate the separation of powers. Spicer seems to suggest that such information could be shared with the Justice Department, which is in the executive branch, but not Congress, which is the legislative branch.
That's an understanding of the separation-of-powers concept that is certainly novel. The separation of powers, of course, deals with the powers that each of the three branches of the federal government has. It does not, however, prevent them from sharing information with one another — or Trump from sharing information publicly that Congress can then use to inform its own investigation.
Spicer has tried to say that the White House wouldn't comment on this any further until Congress investigated it. That proved to be an untenable position.
And as his responses Tuesday showed, there's really no reason Trump shouldn't produce whatever evidence he has (or, most likely, doesn't have) for all to see. We're guessing he wouldn't get impeached for it.