Three Possible Reasons for Trump’s Latest Obama Rant

President Trump. (The White House / CC-BY)

By Robert Reich /

Early Saturday morning, March 4, the 45th
president of the United States alleged in a series of  tweets that former president Barack Obama orchestrated
a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap Trump’s phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last
fall in the run-up to the election. Trump concluded that the former president is a “Bad (or sick) guy!”

Trump cited no evidence for his accusation. 

Folks, we’ve got a huge problem on
our hands. Either:

1. Trump is more nuts than we suspected
– a true delusional paranoid who shouldn’t be anywhere near the nuclear codes
that could obliterate the planet, or near anything else that could determine
the fate of America or the world. 

2. Or Trump’s outburst was triggered by commentary in the “alt-right” publication, Breitbart News, on Friday, which
reported an assertion made Thursday night by right-wing talk-radio host Mark
suggesting Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last
fall to monitor the Trump team’s dealings with Russian operatives.

But if this was the case, we’ve got
a president willing to put the prestige and power of his office behind baseless claims emanating from well-known right-wing purveyors of lies. That means Trump still
shouldn’t be anywhere near the nuclear codes that could obliterate the planet or anywhere else he could do damage.  

3. The third possibility is that Trump is correct, and the Obama
administration did in fact tap his phones. But if this was the case, before the tap
could occur it’s highly likely Trump committed a very serious crime, including treason.

No president can order
a wiretap on his own. For federal agents to obtain a wiretap on Trump, or anyone else, the
Justice Department would first have had to convince a federal judge that it had
gathered sufficient evidence of probable cause to believe Trump had committed a
serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a
criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap. In which case we have someone in the White House who shouldn’t be making decisions that could endanger America or the world. 

What other explanation could there
be for Trump’s Saturday rant? He’s been known to use tweets to divert attention from news stories he doesn’t want the public and the media to focus on. So was Trump seeking to divert public attention from the Jeff Sessions
imbroglio and the increasing number of Trump associates found to have been in
contact with Russian agents before and after the election?

That seems unlikely because Trump’s trumped-up charge
of wiretapping isn’t really a distraction at all. Even if you accept Trump’s version of events, why would the Obama administration have been collecting information on Trump if not because of Trump’s purported
Russian connections? Trump’s accusation thereby focuses even more attention on the possibility he
conspired with the Russians to win the election.

Or is Trump trying to build a case
that the entire Russian story is a plot concocted by the Obama Administration,
along with the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency, and the mainstream
press, to bring Trump down?

In this case, he’s
either paranoid (back to problem #1), or he really is trying to hide a nefarious collaboration that in fact occurred (back to problem #3).

So there you have it. Whatever the reason for Trump’s rant, America is in
deep trouble. We have a president who is either a dangerous paranoid, or is making
judgments based on right-wing crackpots, or has in all likelihood committed

Each of these possible reasons is as terrifying as the other.

Robert Reich
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the…
Robert Reich

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