Hours after President Donald Trump levied an explosive allegation against his predecessor in an early morning tweet storm, former President Barack Obama has denied claims he was wiretapping Trump Tower in New York City during the 2016 election. In a series of tweets published early Saturday, Trump, citing no evidence, accused Obama of having had "wires tapped" in Trump Tower prior to his election victory against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In response, a spokesman for former President Obama issued a strongly-worded denunciation of the allegations Saturday.
"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," Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for former President Obama said in a statement issued Saturday. "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."
President Trump accused Obama of running a Nixonesque Watergate plot that involved having "'wires tapped' in Trump Tower" during the tail end of the 2016 election, in a series of four early-morning tweets. Although Trump offered no supporting evidence, he likened the alleged action to McCarthyism and claimed former President Obama was a "bad (or sick) guy."
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory," Trump tweeted. "Nothing found... How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process."
Under United States law a president does not have the authority to order the electronic surveillance or wiretap without obtaining a warrant from a federal court. In order to obtain such a warrant one would need to establish probable cause that the subject being targeted by the surveillance was an agent of a foreign power.
It was unclear exactly what spurred Trump's allegation Obama had been wiretapping Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper in New York City that served as both Trump's 2016 campaign headquarters and one of his private residences. However, the Washington Post has pointed to a Breitbart story published Friday, which suggested Obama's administration employed "police state" tactics to monitor the Trump campaign, as a potential source.
NBC News also noted that House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked if he had concerns "that the Obama Administration may have been surveilling members of the Trump campaign in a pretty detailed investigation during the election" during an interview with Fox's Brett Baier Ryan on Friday. In the past Trump has tweeted about news items he saw on conservative media outlets like Fox News. Ryan dismissed the notion Obama was surveilling the Trump campaign saying, "I don't think that's the case."
When asked for comment a spokeswoman for President Trump told Reuters he was "having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls" at Mar-a-Lago, a private, members-only estate and golf course he owns in West Palm Beach, Florida.