World

Trump claims Obama had his phones wiretapped, no proof cited

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused former president Barack Obama of having Trump Tower telephone lines wiretapped during last year's election, but didn't offer any evidence or say what prompted the allegation.

U.S. president tweets tapping occurred at Trump Tower during election campaign

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, has accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of tapping his phone lines in Trump Tower, announcing the allegation in a series of tweets without offering any evidence. (Dennis Brack, Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images, )

U.S. President Donald Trump has accused former president Barack Obama of having Trump Tower telephone lines wiretapped during last year's election, but didn't offer any evidence or say what prompted the allegation.

Trump, whose administration has been under siege over campaign contacts with Russian officials, said in a series of early-morning tweets Saturday that he "just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said a "cardinal rule" of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered in any Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of political influence. 

"As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen," Lewis said, adding that "any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

Trump said the wiretapping occurred in October. Trump largely ran the presidential transition out of Trump Tower in New York, where he also maintains a residence.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process," one tweet said. "This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

The White House did not immediately reply to inquiries about what led to the president's tweets.

Trump's tweets came days after revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during his Senate confirmation hearing, didn't disclose his own campaign-season contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

Sessions, a U.S. senator at the time, was Trump's earliest Senate supporter.

Trump's first tweet Saturday mentioned Sessions and claimed the first meeting Sessions had with the Russian diplomat was "set up by the Obama administration under education program for 100 Ambs ..."

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the campaign with the goal of helping elect Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton — findings that Trump has dismissed. The FBI has investigated Trump associates' ties to Russian officials. Trump has blamed Democrats for leaks of information about the investigation and the contacts.

It was not clear what prompted Trump's new charge. The president often tweets about reports he reads on blogs and conservative-leaning websites.

In recent days, the Breitbart News website has published reports citing other anonymously sourced or unconfirmed reports about the Obama administration's attempts to investigate Trump campaign ties to Moscow.

The Associated Press has not confirmed those reports.

Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist in the White House, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

Trump is spending the weekend at his waterfront estate in Palm Beach, Fla., after highlighting his education agenda and support for school choice on Friday by visiting a Catholic school in Orlando. Trump had no public events scheduled during the weekend.

U.S. president accuses Barack Obama of having Trump Tower telephone lines wiretapped without evidence 2:48

After tweeting about Obama Saturday, as well as about Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to leave The New Celebrity Apprentice, Trump went to his golf club in nearby West Palm Beach, Fla. Schwarzenegger replaced Trump as host of the show, while the president remained its executive producer.

Trump planned to return to the White House late Sunday.

A Trump spokeswoman said the president spent part of Saturday "having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls" at his golf course in West Palm Beach.

Concerns from congress

Members of Congress said Trump's accusations require investigation or explanation.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican, described the allegations as serious and said the public deserved more information.

He said in a statement it was possible that Trump had been illegally tapped, but, if so, the president should explain what sort of tap it was and how he knew about it.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump's assertion a 
"spectacularly reckless allegation."

"If there is something bad or sick going on, it is the willingness of the nation's chief executive to make the most  outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them," Schiff said in a statement.

Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes strongly denied Trump's allegations: "No president can order a wiretap," Rhodes wrote on Twitter.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had no knowledge of any wiretapping but was "very worried" about the suggestion Obama had acted illegally and would also be concerned "if in fact the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity."

With files from Reuters

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.