The most important question in this surreal “wiretap” drama may be the one that congressional probers are least likely to answer.
That is: Why did our president go public with a sensational spying charge against his predecessor without the slightest readiness to back it up to the American public?
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process,” went one of his March 4 tweets. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
It was one of several such tweets.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) could win a Yogi Berra award for cryptic quotes. On Wednesday he offered reporters a marvelous talking point he’d used before:
“Are you going to take the [Trump] tweets literally? If you are, then clearly the president was wrong.”
Hmmm. Take them literally . . .
One can only wonder how else a leader’s Twitter barrage could be taken. Figuratively? Allegorically? Did President Donald Trump use the term “wiretap” in such a way as to mean “maybe not wiretap?” By “Obama,” did he mean a ghost who visited in the night?
He didn’t use any smiley-face or winky-face emojis.
Clearly, Trump was agitated about something when he sent the messages. But finding out what that was might go to Trump’s state of mind. And those explorations are hard enough for juries to parse with piles of expert testimony — let alone a congressional panel restrained by the Constitution’s separation of powers.
Remember it was the White House that kicked the embarrassing task of probing this evident bundle of nothing to Congress to begin with. The plan seemed to be that House and Senate staff would clean up the mess, state the obvious and let Trump react as he would.
The strategy seems to be unfolding.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he never gave Trump reason to think the Obama administration wiretapped his building in Manhattan.
“Look, the answer is no,” Sessions said when asked about the issue after a speech in Virginia. “I’m not talking to the president or the people who are investigating the case. And I’m unable to comment on any of these details.”
Sessions, who last year as an Alabama senator backed Trump, has recused himself from any campaign-related probes.
During the campaign, it became evident that Trump supporters took him seriously but not literally, and that it was the reverse for his detractors.
Presidential spokesmen have been trying their best to take his action seriously. They’ve been prattling on about how the president put quotes around the words “wires tapped” — and how microwave ovens can have cameras in them.
Those statements shed no light.
Whether it somehow turns out that Trump was even close to right, or that he parroted or concocted a bizarre rumor, the situation is disturbing.