U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Congress to investigate his unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during last year’s election.
Trump took to Twitter this weekend to insult Obama, accusing him of wiretapping the Trump Tower during the final stretch of the election without providing any evidence.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” tweeted Trump early Saturday morning.
Trump also referred to Obama as a “Bad (or sick) guy!”, comparing his new allegations to Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
FBI Director James Comey has asked the Department of Justice to publicly renounce the assertions made by Trump, officials claim, because the assertions falsely insinuate the FBI was complicit in illegal activities.
This rebuke by Comey constitutes a rare situation in which top intelligence officials are publicly disputing the honesty of a sitting president’s statement.
Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, also dismissed Trump’s claims 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,” Lewis said. “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.”
During the 2016 election, Obama was aware of the alleged ties between Trump’s campaign staff and various Russian officials, yet did not speak on it publicly as it was part of an ongoing investigation.
Trump’s public accusations towards a former president are completely unprecedented. They are made all the more shocking by his decision to make the allegations without substantiating them.
The conspiracy reportedly emerged from a conservative talk radio host, Mark Levin. On his show last Thursday night, Levin accused former President Obama of using “instrumentalities of the federal government” to wiretap various republican nominees for president.
The allegations, presented by Levin without any evidence, were soon picked up by Breitbart.
The question remains, how did a fringe conspiracy by a radio show host manage to capture the imagination and conviction of the world’s most powerful man?
Obama ordering such a wiretap would have required the Justice Department to gather enough evidence to convince a federal judge that Trump had likely committed a crime or was working as an agent of another country.
Trump’s comments come following a article, published on Friday, that claimed there were “known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.” The article cited an Internet news website, which in turn cited anonymous sources “with links” to intelligence communities.
Trump’s aids declined to comment on whether Trump’s information came from internal intelligence, such as the Justice Department, or from what he had seen on the news.
Former top national security aide to Obama, Ben Rhodes, tweeted in response to Trump that “no president can order a wiretap,” and that “those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”
Trump’s apologists believe the assertions are part of a carefully conceived plan to turn media attention away from the Trump-Russia scandal.
The continued reports of contact between members of the Trump administration and Russian government officials have been a continual source of frustration for the President.
Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions recently recused himself from overseeing the ongoing investigation into the ties between Trump and Russia. Sessions decided to withdraw from the investigations after both Democrat and Republican members of congress called for him to remove himself from the investigation, an unusual display of bipartisan support in an often divided legislature.
The calls came after Sessions was found to have lied during his confirmation hearing.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in the campaign and I did not have communications with Russia,” said Sessions. It was later revealed that he did in fact meet twice with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, which Sessions has since confirmed.
Earlier in the year, the F.B.I. revealed that conversations took place between the Russian ambassador and Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor. Flynn was fired after it was reported that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of the calls, which involved the lifting of sanctions which the Russian economy has struggled under.