President Trump is facing calls to retract and apologize for his sensational claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year. The chances of that happening are approximately zero, but Trump can meet his critics partway. Here’s what he should say:
“My words were imprecise when I expressed concern that President Obama engaged in illegal surveillance. My intent was to focus public attention on the torrent of leaks of confidential information gathered by federal authorities. Such leaks are serious crimes and must be firmly addressed.
“The leaks were contained in media reports saying members of my campaign were being investigated by the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies about whether they colluded with Russian agents during the presidential election.
“There was zero truth to those allegations, and members of the previous administration, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have publicly said there is no evidence. Michael Morell, the former CIA acting director and a close ally of Hillary Clinton, agreed, saying investigators found nothing.
“Predictably, those comments did not get nearly as much attention as the initial allegations. Just as predictably, many members of Congress, including some who outrageously accused my campaign of the most awful conduct, now have little to say. Their attitude and that of most of the media is that we should just close the books on 2016 and move along.
“No, hell no, we are not doing that. The American people need to know the full extent of this extremely troubling episode, including who in the government was behind these shadowy investigations and who improperly disclosed details.
“Something happened, and it was not an incidental breach of security laws. Try this experiment for yourself: Just type the words ‘Trump, Russia, collude’ into a search engine and you will get about 650,000 reports about those investigations. Nearly all of them cite anonymous government officials.
“The allegations of collusion had zero factual basis, but they were repeated day after day for months. My campaign team was presumed guilty, despite the fact that not a single shred of evidence was produced. The feverish atmosphere actually included calls for my impeachment before the inauguration.
“In my heart, I believe this was a scandalous attempt by Democrats, hostile members of the media and some people in the federal bureaucracy to delegitimize my presidency and overturn the election. Some have called this a soft coup attempt.
“Whatever you call it, it was deadly serious, and we cannot ignore this dark chapter in our history. Nor can we pretend that this attempt to sabotage a new president didn’t happen simply because it failed. It did happen, and we must get to the bottom of it.
Trump can meet his critics partway. Here’s what he should say.
“As for President Obama, it is obvious from numerous media reports that members of his administration were involved. For example, The New York Times said officials used ‘wiretaps’ and ‘intercepted communications’ in their investigations of my campaign.
“Which officials? Who was wiretapped and which communications were intercepted?
“It also reported that, in one of its final acts, the Obama White House ruled that raw classified data could be shared more widely, a move linked to the explosion of secret information becoming public.
“Who ordered that change, and why? We must get the answers.
“The American people are entitled to know what their government is doing in their name. We properly give wide latitude to the brave people in intelligence and law enforcement who risk their lives to keep us safe.
“At the same time, it is my duty to make sure their power is used lawfully and to guard against the unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. And let there be no mistake: I have zero tolerance for any improper release of secret information.
“I don’t need to remind anyone that my opponent in the election was investigated by the FBI and found to be extremely reckless in her handling of national secrets, and her conduct was a significant factor for many voters.
“We live in very dangerous times, and the World War II warning that ‘loose lips sink ships’ remains true today because of the rapid technological changes that make data collection easier.
“Massive data theft is also easier. Cases involving Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and the recent hacking of the CIA, among other cyberattacks, prove beyond doubt that America needs to raise its guard against our enemies. We must protect our vital secrets to protect ourselves.
“I promise you that the First Amendment to the Constitution is under no threat and never will be as long as I am president. Free speech is fundamental to the American way of life, and I will protect that cherished value for all our people, regardless of whether you support or oppose my administration.
“As you know, the intelligence committees in both the House and the Senate pledged to investigate my allegation, the false charges against my campaign and the unauthorized disclosures. I support their efforts, and we will, of course, fully cooperate.
“In addition, I have directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to convene a task force of current and former law-enforcement and intelligence officials to review all relevant information, including the findings of the congressional committees.
“This belt-and-suspenders approach is designed to make certain we do not miss anything. This situation is unprecedented and raises questions that are too important to leave unanswered.
“I intend to find the truth about what happened, and to share it with the American people. That is what they deserve, and that is what they will get.”