It has been more than a week since President Trump alleged that President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower, and the White House has spent much of that time trying to talk about basically anything else.
Kellyanne Conway isn’t going to help in that effort.
In an interview with the Bergen Record, Conway muses about the possibility that such surveillance could be conducted through phones, TVs and even microwaves. Here’s the exchange with columnist Mike Kelly:
KELLY: Let me ask you about one of the things that seems to be dogging, at least this past week, is the wiretaps — the allegation that Trump Tower was wiretapped. What can you say about that? Do you know whether Trump Tower was wiretapped?
CONWAY: What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately.
KELLY: Do you believe that was …
CONWAY: There was an article that week that talked about how you can surveil people through their phones, through their — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera. We know that is just a fact of modern life.
Conway’s reference is apparently to a trove of alleged CIA hacking documents that were released by WikiLeaks last week. One of the tools described how Internet-connected Samsung TVs could effectively be turned into microphones — a tool dubbed “Weeping Angel.”
(For what it’s worth, the former head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, denied last week that such tools were being used against Americans: “I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American.”)
So Conway wasn’t totally freelancing here, and she seemed to be riffing off something she had read in the news. But her decision to invoke these kinds of surveillance techniques when asked about alleged monitoring of Trump Tower by the Obama administration is only going to breathe life into the story going forward. The question now becomes whether the Trump team believes these techniques were used against them. And Conway’s decision to invoke them in that context makes that an entirely fair question.
Conway took to Twitter on Monday morning to argue that her comments to the Record were taken out of context.
But as you can see above, that’s just not true. She was asked directly about the campaign and the alleged Trump Tower wiretapping when she volunteered these techniques. The question had nothing to do with techniques.
Update: Now Conway says she doesn’t believe Trump Tower was monitored through microwaves. “I’m not inspector gadget,” she said on CNN later Monday morning. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the campaign.”
Conway also appeared on the morning shows Monday, and she clarified that she doesn’t actually have any evidence of the claim Trump made or the suggestions she’s making.
“The answer is I don’t have any evidence, and I’m very happy that the House intelligence committee are investigating,” Conway said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
On NBC’s “Today” show, she seemed to clam up when asked about wiretapping and even suggested it was a distraction.
“We’re talking about a big agenda here,” Conway said. “I know it’s your show and you can talk about what you want, but there are 20 million people just last year who said no to Obamacare — 6.5 million of them paid a penalty.”
Savannah Guthrie cut her off: “The media did not bring up this topic. President Trump did.”
Which is precisely the point. If Conway didn’t realize that talking about surveillance through TVs and microwaves in the context of Trump Tower might be problematic when it comes to focusing on Trump’s agenda, she should have. And if she did mean to inject these things into the conversation — again, without any proof that they were actually used — that’s a pretty cynical move.