Donald Trump, without evidence, says Obama wiretapped him during campaign

"Presidents don't wiretap anyone. These are pursued by the Department of Justice in accordance with the FBI and signed off by a judge," said Democrat Eric Swalwell. Photo source: Wikimedia via Another Believer. Photograph:( Others )

WION Washington, DC, United States Mar 04, 2017, 04.13 PM (IST)

US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping him in October during the late stages of the presidential election campaign, but offered no evidence to support the allegation.

Representatives of Obama have denied the accusations.

Obama's spokesman Kevin Lewis said: "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." 

He added, "As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!," Trump said in a series of Tweets on his Twitter account early on Saturday. "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!"

Presidents don't order wiretaps. As Ben Rhodes, President Obama's former speechwriter and policy adviser, Tweeted: "No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you."

On Saturday, Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that Trump "is not credible when it comes to talking about Russia". Swalwell downplayed Trump's allegation. "I think this is just the president up early doing his routine tweeting," he said. "Presidents don't wiretap anyone. These are pursued by the Department of Justice in accordance with the FBI and signed off by a judge."

And actually, it's perfectly legal for Trump to be wiretapped, and Trump claiming to have just learned about it now is dubious, considering it's been known publicly for months that the FBI is investigating him and his connections to Russia. Louise Mensch at Heat Street broke the news on November 7, 2016: "Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of 'US persons' in Donald Trump's campaign with ties to Russia."

Under US law, a federal court would have to have found probable cause that the target of the surveillance is an "agent of a foreign power" in order to approve a warrant authorising electronic surveillance of Trump Tower.

In one of the Tweets, Trump said the alleged wiretapping took place in his Trump Tower office and apartment building in New York, but there was "nothing found".

Trump's administration has come under pressure from Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional investigations into contacts between some members of his campaign team and Russian officials during his campaign.

Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the United States in December over the country's involvement in hacking political parties in the November 8 US presidential election.

Several conservative news outlets and commentators have made similar allegations about Trump being wiretapped during the campaign in recent days, without offering any evidence.

Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office.

Flynn had promised Vice President Mike Pence he had not discussed US sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by US officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador.

Trump has often used his Twitter account to attack rivals and for years led a campaign alleging that Obama was not born in the United States. He later retracted the allegation.

Obama's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. The White House also did not respond to a request to elaborate on Trump's accusations.

Trump is "having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls" at his golf course in West Palm Beach, according to a Trump spokeswoman.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)