On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted this:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
On Tuesday afternoon, in his first on-camera briefing in a week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this when asked for proof of Trump's wiretapping claims: “It’s not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever.” Instead, he insisted, the goal of Trump's tweets was simply to get congressional investigators to look into the possibility of wiretapping. Congress is now doing this, so, in Spicer's mind, mission accomplished.
Except that what Trump tweeted and what Spicer is now saying aren't the same thing. Not at all. And it is a question of “new proof.” Or, at the very least, some — any? — proof.
Trump tweeted Saturday that he had “just found out” that then-President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. That means conclusive evidence existed and had been presented to Trump about the wiretapping. There's no other interpretation for the language in that tweet.
What Spicer is saying now is that Trump thinks the right thing to do is to have Congress investigate to find out whether wiretapping occurred.
But Trump already stated definitively that it had! Why does Congress need to investigate something the president of the United States already has evidence of?
The most likely answer — and Spicer didn't mention this — is that Trump doesn't really have evidence of Obama wiretapping him during the 2016 campaign. Instead, as has been well documented, he read a Breitbart News story detailing conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin's theory of an attempted “silent coup” by Obama during the campaign and simply tweeted it.
In the aftermath of that tweet, everyone from Obama to FBI Director James B. Comey to former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. insisted that Trump's claim was without merit, that no wiretap of Trump Tower had ever been approved by the Obama administration.
With no actual evidence to go on, the White House decided to pivot. It's no longer a question of what evidence Trump had (or didn't have), Spicer argued Tuesday. Instead it's about Congress doing its due diligence by investigating whether Trump Tower was wiretapped.
In short: The White House is now pushing for investigations in search of the very evidence that Trump claimed he already possessed.
This isn't about a separation of powers — as Spicer claimed Tuesday — or anything else. It's about Trump tweeting first and thinking second. And a White House scrambling to make lemonade — or at least lemon water — from lemons.