‘This is Nixon/Watergate’: Without evidence, Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower before election

Olivier Knox and Colin Campbell

President Trump exploded on Twitter early Saturday morning, blasting former President Barack Obama for allegedly wiretapping his phones before the election. He provided no evidence to back up the claim, and a spokesman for the former president branded the accusation “simply false.”

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he declared.

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” he added.

It wasn’t clear what, exactly, Trump was referring to as he raged against his predecessor, whom he labeled a “bad (or sick) guy!” He also said a talented lawyer could make a “great case” out of the situation.

The White House did not immediately clarify from whom Trump had “just learned” this new information, and Obama’s office categorically denied the charge that the former president had been involved in ordering any wiretapping — though not that a U.S. governmental entity had in fact carried out surveillance of Trump or his aides during the 2016 campaign.

“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,” spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement. “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.”

Earlier, Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser, rejected Trump’s claim that his predecessor had ordered a wiretap of his New York City office.

“No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” Rhodes tweeted.

Trump has the authority to declassify almost any classified material and could substantiate his accusations if he wanted to.

On Friday, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told MSNBC that he believed the FBI possessed transcripts of conversations between top Trump campaign officials and Russian officials that could shed light on whether they worked together to affect the 2016 election. But Coons admitted that he had not seen the documents.

“There are transcripts that provide very helpful, very critical insights into whether or not Russian intelligence and senior Russian political leaders, including Vladimir Putin, were cooperating, were colluding with the Trump campaign at the highest levels to influence the outcome of our election,” Coons said. “I have not seen them, I believe they exist.”

The Saturday-morning Twitter storm was striking, as Trump and Obama had largely appeared to paper over their differences — at least publicly — since the election. Trump called Obama a “very good man” shortly after his stunning November victory.

Shortly after the election, then-President Obama shakes hands with then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Shortly after the election, then-President Obama shakes hands with then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

But Trump has started to increasingly blame Obama for his misfortunes, particularly an embarrassing and politically toxic string of leaks coming out of the federal government.

Trump has been especially irked by reports linking his campaign and transition team to Russia.

The president fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, after it was revealed that the retired lieutenant general had talked to Russia’s ambassador about Obama-era sanctions and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

But Trump has stood behind Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who this week has weathered a firestorm over his own conversations with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. At his confirmation hearing, Sessions indicated under oath that he had had no contact with Russian officials.

“Just out: The same Russian Ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, and 4 times last year alone,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

View Trump’s tweets blasting Obama below.