On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) dropped a quasi-bombshell when he announced that the Obama administration intelligence community had “incidentally” collected information on members of the Trump transition team; this lead Trump’s allies to wildly overstate Trump’s case, echoing Trump’s suggestion that Obama did indeed wiretap Trump. In reality, Nunes essentially echoed what we already knew, but extended it forward in time: the intelligence community was wiretapping foreign targets and caught up Trump associates in those wiretaps. But Trump immediately retweeted the estimable Bill Mitchell, who tweeted out a link from the estimable Gateway Pundit proclaiming that TRUMP WAS RIGHT.
Meanwhile, on the Left, a parallel overstatement quickly took center stage. CNN reported that the FBI had information leaving open the possibility of campaign coordination between “associates of President Donald Trump” and “suspected Russian operatives.” Here’s CNN:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN. This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source. The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
Note all the qualifying language here: the information “indicates,” the Russian operatives are “suspected,” and there was “possible” coordination; officials “cautioned that the information was not conclusive.” There’s a high likelihood that after Nunes’ non-news event was blown out of proportion by Trump allies, Obama-friendly intelligence operatives decided to drop some information to CNN to blow Trump up. Which is, of course, a massive problem: intelligence officials should not be leaking damaging information about domestic individuals to the press. That’s illegal.
The story actually gets even shakier:
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests “people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready.” But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it’s premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it’s largely circumstantial. The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.
So, one source says yes, they’ve got the goods. Many say no, they don’t, at least not yet. Weak tea.
Naturally, the Left jumped to the conclusion that a Trump impeachment was imminent. And it is true that if Trump campaign officials coordinated with the Russians to drop information about Hillary Clinton, that’s worse-than-Watergate behavior – Nixon didn’t coordinate with foreign officials to gather intelligence about George McGovern. It’s also true that if Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Team Trump, or allowed leaks to take place under his administration, that would be worse than Watergate.
But so far, there’s no hard information proving either claim. There’s just a lot of smoke and not very much fire. Which means that both sides will keep claiming that they’re inches away from political TNT, when in reality, all of this is sound and fury signifying nothing.