Fox News' Tucker Carlson grilled Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Monday night about the circumstances around Trump's allegation that his campaign was wiretapped by former President Obama. The debate was very contentious throughout.
"Congressman Jim Himes is a Democrat," Carlson began. "He represents Connecticut, but most significantly, he's on the House Intelligence Committee. He's been highly skeptical of the president's claims.
"So let's get right to the nub of it, right to the president's allegation about the intelligence committee. You sit on the oversight committee so you have knowledge. Does the intelligence committee have any information, any communications originating in Trump Tower or to Trump Tower in its possession right now?"
"I don't know the answer to that question," Himes answered, "and I suspect that if I did, I probably couldn't talk about it on television. One thing is for sure though, and the nub of it is, if they do it would have been pursuant to a warrant issued by a judge not by the command of president Obama. As you know, that kind of surveillance happens only when somebody presents probable cause of a crime, or of a foreign power at work. And then a judge says, 'OK, do it.'"
"I did know that. I did know that," Carlson offered. "But it's kind besides the point. I mean you're speaking to whether or not the president's tweet was literally accurate and it wasn't. But the larger question is whether-"
"Well I'm not sure that's beside the point," Himes interrupted.
"No, no," Tucker disagreed, "because I think the average person is wondering, 'could it be that the United States intelligence community is spying on the president or the presidential candidate or his staff during a campaign."
"No, that could not be," Himes answered.
"Really, because it looks like they were," Tucker came back. "And there's a lot of evidence that they were."
"No, there's no evidence," Himes shot back. "First of all there is absolutely no evidence that they were, and people who would be in the position to know, like FBI Director Comey, apparently wants to tell the world that, y'know, the former DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, said 'no, that's not true.'"
And in fact, as you know, the White House has produced exactly zero evidence. The one institution that could come out with some evidence, because the president can call the head of the CIA, the head of the NSA, the head of the FBI into the office and say, 'tell me if this is true or not,' and they have not done that.
"You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right," Tucker allowed. "But it doesn't change the fact that they were in fact conducting surveillance, DOJ and FBI, of the president's former campaign manager, during the campaign that's not really disputed."
"That's not a fact," Himes denied, "and it's irresponsible for you to say that's a fact. There are allegations, there are news reports out there, but that is not a fact, it may be true."
"So you believe that," Tucker asked, "you believe that to be untrue?"
"Tucker," Himes answered, "I sit on the intelligence committee so I probably know more than perhaps most people on the planet, and no, right now there is absolutely no evidence that that is the case. Now that of course is part of the investigation that has just begun."
"So you're saying that everything that we have read," Tucker continued, "these FISA requests, the one denied, one approved, all the reports that Manafort and two other associates of Donald Trump were under surveillance, that's all false? Is that what you're saying?"
"What I'm saying is that the report," Himes answered, "and when you say 'lots of outlets' you're talking about the Guardian and the New York Times, and none of this stuff has been confirmed. We don't know where it came from. As you know, who is being monitored according to FISA warrants is a highly classified thing, and further as you know, you used the word 'spying,' y'know, I don't quite know what that means."
After a debate about the meaning of the word "spying," Carlson lost patience and moved along, saying, "I want to get to the core. Are you U.S. intelligence agencies listening in on American citizens connected to the Trump campaign, or the administration without their knowledge? You can call it whatever you want, but there seems to be."
"No, U.S. intelligence agencies do not do that," Himes denied. "The FBI may listen in on conversations that Americans are having if a federal judge has been convinced that there is probable cause to award a warrant. That piece of it, the probable cause, that makes it not spying."
"OK, this is why people lose trust in government, you're playing word games with me," Carlson argued.
Was the government under Barack Obama, he controlled the executive branch as you remember, listening in whether through the FBI or whether through NSA, or some other agency, listening into the conversations without the knowledge of those involved, of Trump's associates, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, and you're saying there's no evidence. My question is, is that true? It's been reported, and you said you knew.
"You can ask the question using Barack Obama's name as many times as you want" Himes mocked, "but that will not change the underlying fact that the president of the United States does not have the authority to order a wiretap on anybody. And in fact, if the president did that would be a severe violation probably of the law."
Carlson then asked Himes if he thought it was a big deal that Mike Flynn resigned his position because of leaks about his interactions with a Russian ambassador.
"Let me ask you this," Himes responded. "We as a routine matter often will monitor the communications of people like the Russian ambassador. Do you think that's a bad thing? And yes of course sometimes that Russian ambassador will be talking to U.S. persons and the intelligence community and the FBI have all kinds of protections to make sure that the U.S. person is protected. In this case, as you know, Michael Flynn lied to the Vice President of the United States, who then perpetrated, or perpetuated that lie."
President Trump began a political firestorm when he accused former President Obama of wiretapping his campaign before the election, and then a day later demanded the Congress investigate the claims.