Remember when the folks in the mainstream media almost universally mocked President Donald Trump's claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped? With the recent news that Paul Manafort, who lived and worked in Trump Tower, was wiretapped that charge sure sounds a lot less laughable. Among those treating Trump's claim about Trump Tower being wiretapped more seriously is CBS's John Dickerson who asked Congressman Adam Schiff on today's Face the Nation if Trump was right on this matter.
Of course, Schiff denied that Trump was right but Dickerson seemed to have a lot more respect for that claim. As you shall see, Schiff also continues to appear to be going nowhere in the supposed Trump-Russia collusion investigation since he is actually still giving credit to the "Golden Showers" dossier and making a big deal of Russia's relatively minor ad buy on Facebook during the election.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about some other news that came out this week. There were reports that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign was, in fact, wiretapped two different periods. President Trump said at one point in a tweet, "The Trump Tower was wiretapped." And he was pretty much ridiculed for that. But now we have reporting that Paul Manafort was wiretapped. He had an apartment in Trump Tower. So maybe the President was right.
ADAM SCHIFF: No, I don't think so at all. And, in fact, not only did Director Comey and Director Mike Rogers of the NSA say there was no truth to the president being wire-tapped at Trump Tower, but the Department of Justice recently confirmed that was false as well. I can't comment on whether Mr. Manafort was ever the subject of surveillance of any kind. Even if he were, though, that doesn't justify or suggest that the president was wiretapped improperly by Barack Obama, so there's no truth to that. I will say with respect to Manafort, though, the allegation that he was reaching out to Russian oligarchs close to Putin, and suggesting that he would offer them useful information to them while he was campaign manager, at the very same time the Russians are reaching out to him to offer information on Hillary Clinton. That is of deep concern to us.
So Trump was properly wiretapped? Whether properly or improperly the claim about Trump Tower being wiretapped certainly rings true with the latest revelations about Manafort.
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DICKERSON: But just going back to the president for a minute. I mean, he said Trump Tower was wiretapped, and Manafort lives in Trump Tower. I mean, it might not be precisely letter for letter what was going on, but it's a heck of a lot closer than what people were originally ridiculing the president for.
SCHIFF: Well, I think this is far from an issue of whether it was letter for letter. The president suggested that Barack Obama was illegally wiretapping him. If the Obama Administration was engaged in legal surveillance of someone they believed may have been an agent of a foreign power, we should want the administration to do that, and that's a far cry from the kind of illegal surveillance the president was suggesting.
The claim was that Trump Tower was being wiretapped, Adam. Now you are desperately adding the caveat about whether the wiretapping was legal or illegal.
A strong indication that the Trump-Russia collusion investigation remains a nothing burger is the fact that Schiff at the beginning of the interview acted like the Steele (aka "Golden Showers") dossier actually has some sort of credibility.
DICKERSON: And we're back with California Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, I want to start with a deadline that has passed. The committee has asked the FBI and the Justice Department three times now to give documents related to the so-called "Trump dossier."
This is the salacious set of allegations that - and the FBI has not responded. What's going on?
SCHIFF: Well, this is a subpoena that was issued by our Chairman, and what's unusual about it is the chair recused himself, or so we thought, from the Russian investigation. He has issued a subpoena to the attorney general, who has also recused himself. So two people recused that are seeking documents or refusing to provide documents on an investigation they were supposed to be uninvolved with. But more than that, I think what is really at heart is an effort to discredit Mr. Steele, in an essence also to put the government on trial as a way, I think, of distracting our focus from looking into what Russia did during the election.
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Steele being the author of that dossier?
ADAM SCHIFF: Yes.
Not only is Schiff lending credibility to the "Golden Showers" dossier but he is also making a big deal out of a relatively minor ($100,000) Facebook ad buy by the Russkies.
DICKERSON: Let me ask about another development this week. Facebook turned over some information related to Russian efforts to influence the election. What exactly did they turn over, and why is it important?
SCHIFF: They're providing us with all of the commercials that Russia used on its platform. But I think what's important for people to know is there are a couple of real significant issues here. One is, of course, the paid advertising was designed not only to help Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but more fundamentally, to divide Americans to pit one American against another on some very device issues. It's the kind of cynical campaign you would expect of having a KGB operative running a country. There's a lot we don't know yet about it. I think we know only the minimum of the advertising. And, of course, advertising was only one method the Russians used on social media, and this was only one platform. But there's also an issue about the use of Facebook's algorithms and the way it tends to potentially reinforce people's informational bias. And this is a problem that goes well beyond Russia, but in one example, if you were looking or interested in an article about Hillary Clinton's health, what the Facebook algorithms result in you're seeing a lot more stories about Hillary Clinton's health and reinforce a misperception or inaccurate information? That is a far broader issue than Russia, but one that we really need to know a lot more about.
DICKERSON: And that's a Facebook problem, not a Russia problem. I mean, that's a problem with their algorithm that keeps us all siloed in certain narrow areas.
The algorithms are coming! The algorithms are coming!
SCHIFF: Yes. There's certainly a Russian implication because they use these algorithms to amplify misinformation or slated information. But it's far broader, and we have to ask, "Is this in our society's interest to create these informational silos?"
DICKERSON: What's the impact, though, of these Russian Facebook ads? I mean, is anybody saying that they had any influence on the election that changed the outcome in any possible way? It seems a small amount to have done anything like that.
SCHIFF: Well, first of all, that small amount is only what Facebook has thus far confirmed came directly out of Russia. They have acknowledged that they haven't looked or analyzed or completed a report yet on advertising Russia may have done through third countries. So Russia will use proxies in the Caucasus or other parts of Europe to potentially buy ads or amplify misinformation. And, of course, this is just one platform the Russians were using. This has nothing to do with the Russian use of bots on Twitter. So if you look at the full extent of Russian use of social media, was it in any way decisive or determinative? Hard to say because we really have so little information thus far about the extent of Russian use of social media.
$100,000 in ad buys is barely even chump change so poor Schiff is stuck with claiming proxies could have also made Facebook ad buys for Russia. Okay, double the original amount and you still have a laughably small amount spent in chump change which would do little to change many minds. The fact that Schiff is presenting these ad buys and the "Golden Showers" dossier as something significant means that he probably has nothing in terms of any real evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.