Trump's wiretapping fantasy meets reality

Examining Trump's wiretap claim
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Story highlights

  • Jen Psaki: Senior officials have been stuck defending Trump's unsubstantiated claim that Obama wiretapped him
  • She says DOJ wanting more time to meet deadline for proof looks political, drags longtime employees along

Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator and spring fellow at the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, served as the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. Follow her: @jrpsaki. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)At some point, the public officials -- many with long careers in government -- who are charged with defending President Donald Trump and coming up with evidence to support his absurd claims are going to throw in the towel.

Or that is what should happen.
    Over the past few days, senior officials ranging from White House press secretary Sean Spicer to Vice President Mike Pence have been in the unenviable position of trying to explain and defend their boss's wild accusation that his predecessor, Barack Obama, ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. And it has been uncomfortable to watch.
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    Spicer even suggested Monday that Trump didn't actually mean wiretapping when he said wiretapping, stating, "If you look at the president's tweet, he said very clearly, quote, 'wire tapping' -- in quotes."
    Like most people, I have no idea what that means.
    This statement was likely the result of some brainstorming with the senior team about how on earth he would be able to answer questions and explain what his boss meant -- especially with a Monday deadline looming from the House Intelligence Committee for the Justice Department to turn over any evidence to back this ludicrous story.
    A tall order.
    But the development that the Department of Justice has asked for more time to collect evidence to support the accusation is what crosses an even more troubling line.
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    We don't know why they asked for this. And more time is certainly not going to make details magically materialize to support Trump's claim from 10 days ago.
    But this request puts the career employees at the Justice Department in an untenable position. Many have served for years, if not decades, under presidents and attorneys general of both parties. Just over six weeks after Trump took over, they were accused by the new President of breaking the law by allegedly approving a fictitious request by President Obama to wiretap Trump ... and then asked to come up with evidence to support the allegation.
    Since, apparently, no one is able to fill in the blanks on why all this is happening, we are left to take a stab at it on our own: Is this sideshow the result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions making up for his apparent withholding, during his confirmation hearings, the fact that he met with Russian officials while he was chairman of Trump's national security advisory team?

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    Was the request from DOJ to the House Intelligence Committee made at the urging of the White House -- given its recent history of crossing lines? Was it made for another reason? We don't know.
    But it does look a lot like the politicizing of the Justice Department.
    I worked for President Obama for 10 years. He has dealt with a lot worse than some unhinged tweets. He isn't waiting on an apology. But for the good of the men and women who have served both parties, including President Obama, and kept the government running and functioning through many transitions -- the new administration needs to cut this out.