Updated on April 12 at 12:58 p.m.
It’s now been more than a month since Donald Trump tweeted, without offering any evidence, that Barack Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped” (the scare quotes were his) at Trump Tower prior to the election.
Since then, the president has refused to back down from a claim that is obviously unfounded, as the director of the FBI testified under oath. In the process he has set off a feud with America’s closest ally, made an excruciating joke at the expense of another, and refused to take responsibility for his claims.
He has also tried to change his story.
First, Trump argued that he really just meant that he had been surveilled, rather than literally wiretapped.
Wednesday, in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump has once again tried to change his story, arguing that he was referring to cases of “unmasking,” where Trump transition team officials were named in classified intelligence reports, at the request of Obama officials:
Trump: When you look at Susan Rice and what's going on, and so many people are coming up to me and apologizing now. They're saying you know, you were right when you said that. Perhaps I didn't know how right I was, because nobody knew the extent of it.
Bartiromo: When you sent that infamous tweet, was that what you were referring to, the Susan Rice?
Trump: Oh, sure. We’re talking about surveillance. It was wiretapped in quotes. New York Times said the word wiretapped in the headline of the first edition. Then they took it out of there fast when they realized. But I put wiretapped in quotes, meaning, because, look, wiretapping is an old-fashioned…
Trump continues to fixate on the specific word choice of “wiretap” versus surveillance. There is a technical difference, but the broader problem is his baseless accusation that a president spied on him for partisan purposes. While the FBI has publicly confirmed it is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, there is no evidence to suggest Obama himself ordered surveillance of Trump or his associates for political purposes.