— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) April 4, 2017
On Monday night, Don Lemon had no patience for the effects of Donald Trump’s rage-filled morning tweetstorm, which saw the president still taking shots at Hillary Clinton. The rest of Trump’s tweets ignored U.S. intelligence’s unequivocal conclusions that zero evidence existed to support his false wiretapping claims — which have now carried on for a month — against Obama. Instead, Trump sourced Fox News’ “amazing reporting” about a “very high up” Obama official unmasking Trump associates (whereby their names would not be blacked out in records). Lemon ran through many points in this short clip, but here’s his argument’s essence:
“Let us be very clear about this. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president’s original claim. And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.”
Lemon has grown weary of Trump seizing upon stories about legal surveillance in order to “prove” his wiretapping accusations that have already been debunked. This tactic is also at work with right-wing outlets that are circulating parts of a Bloomberg story that points towards Susan Rice, the former national security advisor to President Obama, doing the unmasking.
Yet as the Washington Post explains, these outlets don’t mention the part of the Bloomberg story that explains how unmasking is not illegal if “the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value.” Such a standard likely applies in the case of Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador.
In the above clip, Lemon also strolls through the past few weeks’ worth of conspiracy theories (largely promoted by Trump) that have been used to support his baseless wiretapping claim. One such theory involves the debunked tale that former Obama official Evelyn Farkas “admitted spying” on the Trump team. As Lemon puts it, “She did no such thing.” The week prior, House Intel Chair Devin Nunes made his claims of Trump team surveillance, which was apparently legal and “incidental” (plus, it sure looks like Nunes colluded with the White House). Lemon doesn’t even mention Trump’s peddling of British wiretapping claims by Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano, but that was bonkers, too.