Byron York: Yes, they spied on Trump

Published 11:58 pm Thursday, February 17, 2022

One of the most contentious claims Donald Trump ever made was his insistence that he had been the target of spying. He made the charge in several different ways. For example, in March 2017, Trump, just two months in office, tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Two years later, in April 2019, he was less specific but equally adamant when he said, “There was absolutely spying into my campaign.” In August 2020, during his Republican National Committee acceptance speech, he said, “Remember this: They spied on my campaign.”

Each time, all the usual anti-Trump voices rushed to accuse the president of lying. But over the years, a series of facts emerged that, while they did not support some of Trump’s most specific charges — Obama did not wiretap Trump in Trump Tower — they did support the larger idea that Trump was indeed the target of spying.

We learned that in the final days of the 2016 presidential race, when the Clinton campaign came up with the Steele dossier — a collection of sensational and unsupported allegations about Trump and Russia — the FBI used the dossier to win approval to wiretap Carter Page, a low-level former Trump campaign adviser. Then we learned that also in 2016, the FBI used a confidential informant, a professor named Stefan Halper, to spy on Page and George Papadopoulos, another low-level Trump adviser. Then we learned that in 2016, the FBI sent an undercover agent — a woman who used the alias Azra Turk — to secretly record conversations with Papadopoulos.

So there is ample evidence to say that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. Now we are learning about another type of spying — the Clinton campaign spying on the Trump campaign. The revelations are coming from the investigation of John Durham, the special counsel appointed by the Trump administration, and retained by the Biden administration, to probe the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.

In a court filing Friday, Durham reported that in July 2016, a tech executive named Rodney Joffe (he is unnamed in the court papers, but his name has been widely reported) worked with the Clinton campaign’s law firm to “mine internet data,” some of it “non-public and/or proprietary” — that means secret — to search for information that could be used to claim a Trump-Russia connection. Among the secret data that was “exploited,” according to Durham, was internet traffic from Trump Tower, from Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building and — after Trump was elected — the executive office of the president of the United States, or EOP.

Joffe’s company, Durham says, “had come to access and maintain dedicated servers for the EOP as part of a sensitive arrangement” — a government contract — to provide tech services. They then “exploited this arrangement by mining the EOP’s [internet] traffic and other data for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”

After that, the Clinton team went to the CIA to try to get the nation’s spy agency interested in the anti-Trump effort. That mirrored earlier Clinton approaches to the FBI, when Clinton operatives tried to interest agents in what is known as the “Alfa Bank” story, which was a phony allegation that there were all sorts of suspicious connections between a Russian bank and the Trump campaign.

The bigger goal of all of it, Durham says, was “to establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ tying then-candidate Trump to Russia.” So there was a two-track operation going on: While the FBI was doing spying of its own, the Clinton team was spying, too, and trying to get the FBI and CIA involved. It was all part of a larger plan to push the “narrative” of Trump-Russia collusion.

How did it end? You’ll remember that a special counsel, Robert Mueller, using all the resources and powers of federal law enforcement, searched for collusion for years and could never establish that it happened, much less that any Trump campaign figures might have been involved.

The new revelation is confirmation for some of the Republicans who uncovered the early clues of the spying operation. “Democrat-paid operatives illegally hacked their political opponents’ communications during a presidential campaign and then did it again to a sitting president and the White House staff,” said Devin Nunes, who as House Intelligence Committee chairman investigated the spying allegations. “These actions are characteristic of third-world dictatorships, not democracies. It is undoubtedly the biggest political scandal of our lifetime.” (Nunes, who just left Congress, is now CEO of the new Trump social media venture.)

This content originally appeared on the Washington Examiner at

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.