This weekend Donald Trump fell off the crazy tree and hit every branch on the way down.
Even from a president who has spent the last 20 months making one evidence-free, conspiracy-laden charge after another, his Twitter rant Saturday morning, accusing former president Obama of having his “wires tapped,” represented a new level of presidential delusion.
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
To put this in context, Trump stated as fact that during the presidential campaign, President Obama committed an abuse of power that, if true, would represent a criminal offense. It almost seems like an afterthought to mention that the president of the United States cannot order the Department of Justice to wiretap a private citizen — which, ideally, would be something that the current president would know.
Yet, in the process of trying to “prove” Trump’s bizarre charge, White House aides may have committed actual offenses. According to news reports, the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, was trying to gain a copy of the alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order authorizing surveillance of Trump and his associates from the Department of Justice. Even the request for such an order represents unprecedented interference by the White House in an ongoing criminal investigation — an investigation that could touch on the actions of the president and his top aides. This is now the second time in a week that White House officials have directly interfered in the Trump-Russia investigation. Last month, chief of staff Reince Priebus called top FBI officials and asked them to refute news stories that alleged regular contact between Trump campaign aides and Russian officials during the campaign. In non-bizarro America this would be a huge scandal, but in Trump’s America such abuses of power are quickly subsumed in the news cycle by new allegations of abuses of power.
One of the reasons that McGahn is trying to get his hands on this warrant, however, is that Trump based his assertions not on actual information that is available to him as president of the United States, but instead on an article in Breitbart, a right-wing media outlet that openly traffics in racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitic tropes. He demanded Congress investigate these wiretap allegations even though neither he nor any member of his staff has provided a scintilla of evidence to suggest that they are true.
After James Comey, the FBI Director, let it be known that these charges are false and asked the Department of Justice to put out a statement making this clear, Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the president disagrees with the director of the FBI. Sanders said Sunday, “Everybody acts like President Trump is the one that came up with this idea and just threw it out there.” But of course not everyone is acting like this happened. Everyone — except, it seems, Trump’s beleaguered spokewoman — knows this is what happened: the president of the United States was touting unsubstantiated speculation as fact. After all, Trump has made so many of these unsubstantiated claims, from Obama’s birth certificate and the assertion that the former president created ISIS, to accusing Ted Cruz’s father of being involved in the Kennedy assassination and stating that more than 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
As if all of this is not bad enough, in his early morning tweetstorm Trump also misspelled the word “tap.”
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
On one level, this story is fundamentally about the ongoing Russia investigation and the unanswered questions of whether Trump and his aides were colluding with Russian officials during the campaign. If true, this would represent an unprecedented interference in the democratic process and would be, perhaps, the most significant political scandal in American history. But even if not true, the president’s weekend tweetstorm speaks to something even more worrisome — Donald Trump is an unhinged conspiracy troll who is temperamentally and psychologically unsuited to be president of the United States. Whatever the results of the Russia investigations, Trump’s inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office has become impossible to ignore.Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.