‘Sim­ply false’, says Obama spokesman on Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tion

New Straits Times - - World -

UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ac­cused his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama on Satur­day of wire­tap­ping him dur­ing the late stages of the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign, but of­fered no ev­i­dence for an al­le­ga­tion which an Obama spokesman said was “sim­ply false.”

Trump made the ac­cu­sa­tion in a se­ries of early morn­ing tweets just weeks into his ad­min­is­tra­tion and amid ris­ing scru­tiny of his cam­paign’s ties to Rus­sia.

“How low has pres­i­dent Obama gone to tap my phones dur­ing the very sa­cred elec­tion process. This is Nixon/Water­gate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump wrote in one tweet.

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that pres­i­dent Obama was tap­ping my phones in Oc­to­ber, just prior to elec­tion!”

The re­mark­able tus­sle be­tween the cur­rent and for­mer pres­i­dents just 45 days since the han­dover of power is the lat­est twist in a con­tro­versy over ties be­tween Trump as­so­ciates and Rus­sia that has dogged the early days of his pres­i­dency.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­cluded last year that Rus­sia hacked and leaked Demo­cratic emails dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign as part of an ef­fort to tilt the vote in Trump’s favour. The Krem­lin has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Trump has ac­cused of­fi­cials in Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of try­ing to dis­credit him with ques­tions about Rus­sia con­tacts.

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said it had been a “car­di­nal rule” of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that no White House of­fi­cial ever in­ter­fered with any in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion led by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice.

“Nei­ther pres­i­dent Obama nor any White House of­fi­cial ever or­dered sur­veil­lance on any US cit­i­zen. Any sug­ges­tion oth­er­wise is sim­ply false,” Lewis said in a state­ment.

The state­ment did not ad­dress the pos­si­bil­ity that a wire­tap of the Trump cam­paign could have been or­dered by Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials.

Trump said the al­leged wire­tap­ping took place in his Trump Tower of­fice and apart­ment build­ing in New York, but there was “noth­ing found”.

Trump’s tweets caught his aides by sur­prise, with one say­ing it was un­clear what the pres­i­dent was re­fer­ring to. Mem­bers of Congress said Trump’s ac­cu­sa­tions re­quired in­ves­ti­ga­tion or ex­pla­na­tion.

Se­na­tor Ben Sasse, a Repub­li­can, de­scribed the al­le­ga­tions as se­ri­ous and said the pub­lic de­served more in­for­ma­tion.

He said it was pos­si­ble that Trump had been il­le­gally tapped, but, if so, the pres­i­dent should ex­plain what sort of tap it was and how he knew about it.

US Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, called Trump’s as­ser­tion a “spec­tac­u­larly reck­less al­le­ga­tion”.

“If there is some­thing bad or sick go­ing on, it is the will­ing­ness of the na­tion’s chief ex­ec­u­tive to make the most out­landish and de­struc­tive claims with­out pro­vid­ing a scin­tilla of ev­i­dence to sup­port them,” Schiff said in a state­ment.

For­mer Obama ad­viser Ben Rhodes strongly de­nied Trump’s al­le­ga­tions: “No pres­i­dent can or­der a wire­tap. Those re­stric­tions were put in place to pro­tect cit­i­zens from peo­ple like you,” Rhodes wrote on Twit­ter.

Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Lind­sey Graham said he had no knowl­edge of any wire­tap­ping but was “very wor­ried” about the sug­ges­tion Obama had acted il­le­gally and would also be con­cerned “if in fact the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was able to ob­tain a war­rant law­fully about Trump cam­paign ac­tiv­ity”.

Sev­eral other Repub­li­cans again urged an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a se­ries of in­tel­li­gence-re­lated leaks.

Un­der US law, a fed­eral court would have to have found prob­a­ble cause that the tar­get of the sur­veil­lance is an “agent of a foreign power” in or­der to ap­prove a war­rant au­tho­ris­ing elec­tronic sur­veil­lance of Trump Tower.

Sev­eral con­ser­va­tive news out­lets and com­men­ta­tors have made al­le­ga­tions in re­cent days about Trump be­ing wire­tapped dur­ing the cam­paign, with­out of­fer­ing any ev­i­dence.


Barack Obama sit­ting across Don­ald Trump at the pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion in Wash­ing­ton in Jan­uary. Yes­ter­day, in a se­ries of tweets, Trump al­leged that Obama had tapped his phones in the months be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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