White House

Today in Trump tweets, March 4, 2017: Obama wiretapping Trump Tower?

By Greg Hadley

In this March 2, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to Navy and shipyard personnel aboard nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va.
In this March 2, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to Navy and shipyard personnel aboard nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. AP

Donald Trump offered up some of the most explosive allegations of his young presidency, taking to Twitter on Saturday morning to accuse his predecessor, Barack Obama, of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Trump went on to call Obama “a bad (or sick) guy,” and compared the alleged wiretapping to the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and McCarthyism, the 1950s movement to root out Communists in the U.S. government without proper evidence.

Trump offered no evidence for his claims, but many have noted that talk radio host Mark Levine and right-wing news website Brietbart have both made similar accusations in recent days.

In one of his tweets, Trump spoke of a court ruling that turned down a request to “wire (tap) a race for president prior to the election.” This appears to be a reference to earlier reports that the FBI applied for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to investigate possible ties between Trump’s team and Russia. At the time, The Guardian reported that the warrant request was denied.

However, the New York Times reports that the FBI did in fact listen in on conversations between his then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador after the election.

Critics of Trump have argued that even if the FBI did obtain a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower and listen in on his associates, tying that to Obama makes no sense, as the FBI would not be obligated to share details of an on-going investigation with the White House or take directives from the president.

Still, Trump’s comparison between Obama and Nixon could mean that he believes his predecessor ordered members of his team to conduct an illegal wiretap on their own, as Nixon did. Such an action would be a felony, per the Los Angeles Times.

The Washington Post, citing senior intelligence officials, reported that the likelihood of Trump Tower being tapped is low, and Obama’s spokesperson denied the allegations in a statement.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” spokesperson Kevin Lewis said.

It has been widely reported that there may be a federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, an investigation that has drawn increased scrutiny recently after it was revealed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had conversations with the Russian ambassador while he was a senator which he did not disclose during his confirmation hearings. Sessions later announced he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations into the 2016 election because of his role as a surrogate for Trump.

The New York Times reports that Trump was upset with Sessions’s decision, and he has since gone on the offensive against Democrats calling for Sessions to recuse himself or even resign over the revelations. On Friday, he appeared to sarcastically call for investigations against the top Democrats in the House and Senate, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer, tweeting out images of them alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian ambassador.

On Saturday, he renewed his defense of Sessions, accusing the Obama White House of both arranging for Sessions to meet with the Russian envoy and of meeting with the ambassador multiple times.

The first tweet echoes claims made in a Breitbart article on Friday, which said the event at the Republican National Convention where Sessions met the Russian ambassador was sponsored by the State Department.

According to the Global Cleveland, the event’s organizer, however, the Republican National Committee and the State Department coordinated together to bring “roughly 80” ambassadors to the event in order to encourage investment by foreign governments in the Cleveland community, not an educational program, as Trump claimed.

Trump’s claim that the Russian ambassador visited the Obama White House nearly two dozen times originated with websites such as Breitbart and the Daily Caller, which cited Obama’s searchable database of visitor records. However, critics were quick to point out that the reason Democrats are attacking Sessions is not that he met with the ambassador but that he did not disclose those meetings later.

Finally, Trump attacked actor and former politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said Friday that he would not be returning to reality TV show “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” citing the “baggage” that Trump’s association brought to the show.

Trump, however, said Schwarzenegger was “fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings.”

This is not the first time Trump has feuded with Schwarzenegger over the show’s ratings, which have been lackluster.