TRUMP: OBAMA WIRETAPPED ME
‘Simply false’, says Obama spokesman on Trump’s accusation
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.