Politics

Obama Staffers Decline to Rule Out Trump Tower Wiretap

Former White House speechwriter suggests president was under election-time surveillance

A spokesman for former President Obama responded to President Donald Trump’s accusations of wiretapping in a statement Saturday, saying that “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”

The statement failed to indicate whether or not there could be any truth to Department of Justice or FBI wiretaps on communications to and from Trump Tower during the 2016 election — an omission that left the political world ablaze with speculation Saturday.

“How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The speculation was fueled further when a former speechwriter for Obama warned the media not to suggest the former president was denying the existence of election-time surveillance on Trump.

“I’d be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the WH ordered it,” tweeted former Obama communications staffer Jon Favreau Saturday.

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Trump first made waves in the early hours of the morning Saturday morning by firing off a series of tweets alleging his predecessor “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” during the presidential campaign.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump tweeted. “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!”

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“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!” Trump added. “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

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In response to Trump’s allegations, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis released a statement Saturday saying, “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. 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.”

In addition, Ben Rhodes, a former foreign policy adviser to Obama, tweeted earlier in the day, “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”

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Although Lewis claimed that neither Obama nor any White House officials under him ordered a wiretap on Trump, his statement neither explicitly confirmed nor denied whether or not Trump was under surveillance at any time.

“Obama spox: Trump’s allegation that Obama had him wiretapped is ‘simply false’ (Doesn’t deny wiretapping happened — denies Obama ordered it),” Bradd Jaffy, a senior news editor and writer for NBC News, tweeted Saturday.

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Errol Barnett, a Washington correspondent for CBS News, also questioned the omission, tweeting, “Note that the statement does not deny a wiretapping of Trump tower, only that Pres. Obama didn’t order it.”

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Trump’s Saturday morning tweets came several days after the president said during an interview on “Fox & Friends” that he believed Obama and his officials potentially were behind the string of protests that have unfurled across the country in the wake of Trump’s inauguration, as well as the recent onslaught of leaks that have been dogging the administration.

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“I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump said Tuesday. “And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, you know, some of the leaks — which are very serious leaks, because they’re very bad in terms of national security.”

“But I also understand that’s politics,” Trump added. “And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue … I’m not really surprised because I understand the way the world works. It’s politics. I mean I’m changing things that he’s wanted to do.”

Although it is unclear exactly what transpired to prompt Trump to accuse his predecessor of monitoring him Saturday morning, the president may have been referring to an article published Friday by Breitbart analyzing a claim from conservative radio host Mark Levin alleging that the Obama administration applied for two Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrants in 2016 — the purpose of those requests was reportedly to monitor Trump.

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