In a series of tweets published early Saturday, President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower prior to his 2016 election win in a sort of Nixonesque Watergate plot. President Trump did not provide evidence to support his allegation.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory," Trump said in a tweet published to his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, adding there was reportedly "nothing found." "This is McCarthyism!" Trump said in the first of four tweets published on the subject early Saturday. "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!" Trump continued in a second tweet. "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! How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
Although President Trump's accusation Obama had his "wires tapped" in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election represented an explosive allegation, the president did not elaborate on the source of his information nor did he cite any evidence to support his claim.
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
While former President Obama has not yet responded to Trump's wiretapping allegation, former Obama deputy national security advisor for strategic communication Ben Rhodes sought to give Trump a little education on the laws surrounding wiretaps Saturday. "No president can order a wiretap," Rhodes tweeted in response to Trump's allegation. "Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you."
In an interview with Fox News, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell also dismissed the credibility of Trump's accusation. "Presidents don't wiretap anyone. These are pursued by the Department of Justice in accordance with the FBI and signed off by a judge," Swalwell said Saturday. "I think this is just the president up early doing his routine tweeting."
No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you. https://t.co/lEVscjkzSw— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) March 4, 2017
Although it's impossible to know exactly where Trump's wiretapping allegation stemmed from without further explanation from the president or the White House, 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. Noting Trump's penchant for tweeting about news items seen on conservative media outlets, NBC News also noted House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked Friday during an interview with Fox's Brett Baier 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." Ryan dismissed that notion saying, "I don't think that's the case."
United States law dictates that electronic surveillance, or wiretapping, can be done only with a warrant from a federal court after probable cause is established.