Email #271: “allegations from the President himself”?

On March 8th, you and the other Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee wrote to former FBI Director Comey regarding “allegations from the President himself that he and his associates were placed under surveillance during the 2016 campaign.” These so-called allegations had appeared in a set of early morning tweets just four days earlier:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Though you have since expressed in private meetings with constituents that you wish the President would stop using his Twitter account, it was impressive how quickly you responded to the President’s tweets. You also reminded Director Comey that the Judiciary Committee is the primary House committee of jurisdiction over the Wiretap Act and so requested a briefing “on the very serious allegations that the President and/or his associates were or are under surveillance.”

You never reported whether that briefing occurred, but on Friday, roughly six months after you made your request, the Justice Department filed a court brief stating that both its National Security Division and the FBI “confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.” When asked about this, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered: “This is not news.”

Since you said your request to Director Comey was evidence that you and your fellow Republican Judiciary Committee members “will not waver in our commitment to ensuring that our nation’s most powerful intelligence tools and agencies operate with the trust and confidence of the American people,” are you satisfied in the “not news” confirmation that the President’s “very serious allegations” were fabrications?

If your concern is the trust and confidence of the American People in our nation’s most powerful agencies, do you acknowledge that your quick and credulous response to the President’s baseless tweets undermines that very trust and confidence?

Since you emphasized to Director Comey the importance of your Constitutional role to engage in “oversight of the functions of the Executive Branch,” will you now investigate the President’s role in making and disseminating these false allegations?

You told Director Comey that “Our fellow citizens must have confidence in the thoroughness and evenhandedness of our investigatory and prosecutorial agencies.” Looking back at your March 8th letter now, do you believe that it promotes or undermines thorough evenhandedness?

After the next six months have passed, do you imagine your current behavior will be evaluated as unwaveringly evenhanded by impartial judges?

When the Trump administration is a brief but astonishing chapter in our grandchildren’s history books, what supporting role do you think you and your fellow GOP Representatives will play? Principled watchmen? Savvy party loyalists? Credulous victims? Or just comic relief jesters?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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