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MicrowaveGate: Washington’s newest scandal

By BILL DELEHUNT

The Trump Administration has continued its stream of strange activity and questionable communication over spring break – here’s what you missed from last week.  

Most notably, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of espionage in, what else, a tweet. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the [election] victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” In a second tweet: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wiretapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!?” And finally, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Trump provided no evidence of any such activity which, lacking a court order, would be felonious. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer began to walk back this outrageous charge of illegal action at a White House press briefing on March 13, stating that Trump didn’t really mean Obama had ordered illegal electronic bugging, according to CNN. Spicer said, “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities,” adding, “He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally.” So, the words Trump used, “wiretapping” and “President Obama,” were not actually the words he meant, even though both have well defined and well known meanings. Spicer went on to note that a Fox News broadcaster claimed Obama had British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters, the UK’s version of America’s NSA, carry out the actual illegal wiretapping.  The British government called the allegation“utterly ridiculous.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Mark Warner all deny this story. But that doesn’t matter to some others, including presidential spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, who has also contributed to this already strange story.

On March 12, Conway was interviewed by The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey. In that interview, she mentioned that wiretapping may refer to other unconventional types of surveillance, such as “microwaves that turn into cameras.” How, exactly, would that work? That the microwave would take pictures? Conway did not have an answer, and back pedaled her ridiculous statement in a later interview with CNN. “I’m not Inspector Gadget. I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign. However, I am not in the job of having evidence, that is what investigations are for,” she said.  

Great. The counselor to the president doesn’t believe it is her job to have evidence that would back up her claims of criminal activity during a presidential campaign. She can just make up whatever garbage she likes and others should spend time investigating her illegitimate charges. Is this what would happen in an international crisis, for example, if America accused Iran of violating the nuclear weapons agreement? Would government officials merely make up “alternate facts” without providing any proof?  Shouldn’t the officials of the United States government have evidence before going in front of the American citizens with accusations such as these? Is this any way to run a country?

In a story that is in no way related to any of these charges of electronic devices conducting surveillance, we have a Bluetooth vibrator class action lawsuit. We-Vibe vibrators, which can be controlled from a phone app, have been collecting data on users – such as when the device is used, for how long and on what setting. In the class action lawsuit, the company has been ordered to stop collecting the information and destroy any they have collected. But maybe Conway is onto something. If your vibrator is reporting on your sex life, perhaps your microwave really is recording you while you sleep. And who knows what that bastard mini fridge in your dorm room is telling your parents about your boyfriend spending the night last weekend.

Just when you think the federal government has set the lowest standards for weird behavior, the state of Texas says, “Hold my beer.” In the Lone Star State, Representative Jessica Farrar has had enough of restrictive laws aimed at women and their reproductive systems. Her mostly-symbolic legislation would require a 24 hour waiting period before a man gets a colonoscopy or vasectomy. Additionally, claiming male masturbation is “an act against an unborn child,” the bill would fine men $100 each time they self-pleasure. While Representative Farrar realizes there is little chance her bill will become law, you have to give her a hand for staying firm in this sticky situation.

The Trump Administration seems to be out of touch, perhaps delusional on this idea that Donald Trump was wiretapped by Barack Obama. Why? Are they attempting to divert attention from the lousy health care bill – known alternately as TrumpCare or RyanCare –  that the Republicans have put forth to replace the Affordable Care Act? Or to take our eyes off the incredibly bad budget the White House is proposing? The budget that puts the cost of building that $25 billion wall on the border with Mexico on the American taxpayer? Or simply to keep us from asking questions about the continuing story that the Trump campaign was working directly or indirectly with Russian intelligence to rig the American election? Fortunately, there are enough patriots watching all the actions of this administration, and we will call out any and all missteps.

Bill Delehunt can be reached at william.delehunt@spartans.ut.edu.

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