President Trump made serious allegations against the former president Obama via Twitter. He tweeted on Saturday, March 4 “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump then went on to question whether it was legal for the former president to wiretap him and said a good lawyer would make a great case for him. He also compared it the Nixon Watergate. Since then President Trump has not made any further elaborations or provided any evidence to support his charge. Former president Obama has not made any comments except denial.
The top White House officials have remained behind the president but failed to provide any further evidence supporting his claims or even the source of his information. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “He’s the president of the United States. He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not.” He also made a statement to CNN saying that there are many ways to surveil each other including “microwaves that turn into cameras”.
In an interview with ABC News, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the claim. “All we’re saying is let’s take a closer look. Let’s look into this. If this happened, if this is accurate, this is the biggest overreach and the biggest scandal,” Sanders said. When asked about how Trump had said it as a fact and not a possibility she said that she would let the president speak for himself.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to explain Trump’s wiretapping tweet by saying that the president had not literally meant wiretapping but was referring to broad surveillance and other activities and suggested that Trump was accusing Obama’s administration and not the former president. According to the tweet, however, President Trump did directly accuse former president Obama of wiretapping him during the elections.
The Obama administration has denied that former president was responsible for any wiretapping or had any information about surveillance being done on Trump. On the other hand, they have not denied that surveillance was done by any other departments. James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, thinks Trump is right about the surveillance, but that it was conducted under direction from the attorney general at the Justice Department. Jon Favreau, Obama’s former speechwriter, highlighted this distinction by tweeting, “I’d be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the WH ordered it.”
If there was any wiretap, it would be protected under the highest levels of classifications so it’s not clear how many officials would know about it. However, multiple former senior intelligence officials told ABC that in almost every circumstance, Trump would have the authority to ask and find out if he had been wiretapped. The only real circumstance in which he might not be privy to that information is if a warrant was focused on him. Former national security adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted a similar sentiment in a response to Trump, writing, “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”
FBI Director James Comey has asked the Justice Department to publicly refute Trump’s assertion that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump’s phones before the election. Yet Comey has not taken any further steps to get the claim refuted.
There is also a possibility that the allegations that Trump made against Obama may have been something he read on Breitbart article that addressed claims from Mark Levin radio segment about alleged efforts by the Obama administration to undermine the Trump campaign.
It is possible that a wiretap order on Trump could have been legally obtained from the FISA Court. The president’s accusations against Obama came amid numerous political questions surrounding his associates’ possible ties to Russia. The FBI is investigating Trump associates’ contacts with Russia during the election, as are House and Senate intelligence committees. This could be a possible reason for why the wiretapping was called on Trump, even if the former President Obama was not directly involved, and why the information is not available to Trump.
Evidence is being collected to see whether the allegations of Trump are actually true or not. If true, it could be problematic for the nation. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement that the panel “will follow the evidence where it leads, and we will continue to be guided by the intelligence and facts as we compile our findings.” No evidence has yet been found that show that Trumps allegations had any truth to them.
Finally, only a full-fledged investigation can bring out the truth. However, if the charge are not legally proven, this controversy does not reflect positively on the American democracy.