President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his phones at Trump Tower the month before the election, taking to Twitter to call his predecessor a “bad (or sick) guy.”
Without offering any evidence or providing the source of his information, Trump fired off a series of Twitter messages claiming that Obama “had my ‘wires tapped.’” He likened the supposed tapping to “Watergate/Nixon” and “McCarthyism.”
Trump’s aides declined to clarify whether the president’s explosive allegations were based on briefings from intelligence or law enforcement officials or on something else, like a news report.
A spokesman for Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though officials from his administration called Trump’s accusation shocking and untrue. They pointed to long-standing laws and procedures intended to ensure that presidents cannot wiretap a rival for political purposes.
Trump’s decision to lend the power of his office to such a claim – without offering any proof – was remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on rumors.
It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Trump’s phone conversations. It would have meant that the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to persuade a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe he had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal investigation or a foreign intelligence one.
In one message, which Trump sent from his Palm Beach resort at 6:35 a.m., the president said he had “just found out” that his phones had been tapped before the election. Speculation online quickly turned to the possibility that Trump had been reading an article on the Breitbart News site or listening to the conservative radio host Mark Levin; both have embraced the theory in recent days.
One former senior law enforcement official who worked under Obama said that it was “100 percent untrue” that the government had wiretapped Trump, and that the current president should be pressed to offer any evidence for his assertion.
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