Over two weeks have passed since Donald Trump baselessly accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. The president made the claim after reading a right-wing conspiracy theory on Breitbart, and the resulting trainwreck has recently included the White House trying to blame the British for nonexistent hacking. Now, the New York Times and Media Matters have placed some puzzle pieces together to reveal how this accusation, via Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano, can be traced back to a known hoaxster, who recently spoke on the subject during a Russian State TV interview.
How this happened is, of course, a convoluted mess. After both House and Senate intel leaders all declared that no evidence existed to support Trump’s initial wiretap claim, the president dug up some “proof” for Sean Spicer to present to America. And at Thursday’s press briefing, Spicer cited Fox News commentary by Napolitano, who claimed he had heard from three intel sources that British spies helped Obama gain surveillance on Trump. On Friday, however, Shepard Smith pushed back hard (“full stop”) while telling Fox News viewers that the network didn’t have evidence to support any of Trump’s wiretapping accusations.
So the question remained … who were Napolitano’s “sources” for this accusation against the Brits? The NY Times acknowledges Napolitano’s love for conspiracy theories and points towards Larry C. Johnson, who has stepped up as a source. Johnson’s name may sound familiar in a way-back sense, for he’s the former CIA analyst who falsely claimed Michelle Obama was caught on tape using the term “whitey” in 2008. From the NY Times:
Mr. [Andrew] Napolitano’s unlikely leap into global politics can be explained by his friendship with Mr. Trump, whom he met with this year to discuss potential Supreme Court nominees. Mr. Napolitano also has a taste for conspiracy theories, which led him to Larry C. Johnson, a former intelligence officer best known for spreading a hoax about Michelle Obama.
Mr. Johnson, who was himself once a Fox News contributor, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Napolitano called him on Friday and requested that he speak to The New York Times. Mr. Johnson said he was one of the sources for Mr. Napolitano’s claim about British intelligence.
Mr. Johnson became infamous in political circles after he spread false rumors in 2008 that Michelle Obama had been videotaped using a slur against Caucasians. In the interview on Friday, Mr. Johnson acknowledged his notoriety, but said that his knowledge of surveillance of Mr. Trump came from sources in the American intelligence community. Mr. Napolitano, he said, heard about his information through an intermediary.
Media Matters further connects Johnson’s claims to his Russian State TV interview from March 6 — two days after Trump first accused Obama of wiretapping (based upon the Breitbart report). Whether or not Napolitano watched this RT interview isn’t clear, although one can assume as much, since Johnson used the appearance to accuse the Brits of aiding Obama to wiretap Trump. At some point after Johnson appeared on RT, he spoke with Napolitano before the Fox News personality made the on-air accusations against British intelligence.
So, this is swiftly becoming yet another case where Trump has cited Russian media, albeit in a roundabout way. Meanwhile, the Brits still haven’t seen closure on this issue. Friday saw both a reported apology from the White House, which was later denied by Spicer. Oh boy.