President Trump repeated his unsubstantiated claim that former President Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower in a somewhat tense, interview-ending exchange with CBS News, released Monday, about his relationship with his predecessor.
“Face the Nation” host John Dickerson interviewed Trump in the Oval Office. After asking if the president had received any helpful advice from Obama, Trump broached the topic of surveillance.
“Well, he was very nice to me, but after that we’ve had some difficulties,” Trump said of his predecessor. “So, it doesn’t matter. You know, words are less important to me than deeds. And you saw what happened with surveillance and everybody saw what happened with surveillance.”
In early March, Trump sparked a weeks-long firestorm with a series of explosive, evidence-free tweets accusing Obama of having ordered a wiretap on his Trump Tower office. Obama’s spokesman rejected the claim. The White House has since muddled Trump’s stance, but refuses to back down on the accusation.
And Trump, clearly, isn’t backing down, either.
“Well, you saw what happened with surveillance and I think that was inappropriate,” he told Dickerson.
“What does that mean, sir?”
“You can figure that out yourself.”
When Dickerson pressed him, Trump held his ground, even while simultaneously claiming, “I don’t stand by anything,” with respect to his past accusations.
“Well, the reason I ask is because you called him ‘sick’ and ‘bad,’” Dickerson said, repeating language Trump used on Twitter to describe Obama.
“Look, you can figure it out yourself,” Trump replied. “He was very nice to me with words, but, and when I was with him, but after that there has been no relationship.”
“But you stand by that claim about him?”
“I don’t stand by anything,” the president said. “You can take it the way you want. I think our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it. And frankly, it should be discussed. I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. I think that’s a very big topic. And it’s a topic that should be No. 1, and we should find out what the hell is going on.”
Their back-and-forth continued.
“You don’t have to ask me, you don’t have to ask me.”
“Because I have my own opinions; you can have your own opinions.”
“But I want to know your opinions. You’re the president of the United States.”
“OK, it’s enough,” Trump said, waving Dickerson off and walking away. “Thank you.”
The president of CBS News tweeted that Dickerson said, “It was pretty clear I was to escort myself out,” following the testy exchange.
— David Rhodes (@davidgrayrhodes) May 1, 2017
Despite the tensions between Obama and Trump — Obama campaigned heavily for Trump’s election rival, Hillary Clinton — the two held a cordial White House meeting in November. Trump called the meeting “a great honor” and said he looked forward to further building a relationship with Obama, a “very good man.”