'Simply false': Obama spokesman rejects Trump wiretapping claims

President Trump, in a Saturday morning tweetstorm, responded to the mounting questions over his ties to Russia by accusing then-President Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower just before the November election — an accusation an Obama spokesman denied.

The unsubstantiated outburst follows several days of stories raising questions about meetings between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials, particularly two previously undisclosed meetings between now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

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

Kevin Lewis, Obama's spokesman, said in a statement: "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," he said. "Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."

 

In making the charges, Trump does not elaborate on any evidence backing up the explosive accusation.

The tweet blasts began at 6:26 a.m. from the Winter White House at Mar-a-Lago in Florida when Trump raised the Sessions issue by noting that the first meeting between the senator from Alabama and the Russian ambassador was set up by the Obama administration as part of an education program.

Eight minutes later he raises the charge of illegal surveillance by the Obama administration: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

Then: "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!"

And: "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!"

The president first responded to the Sessions issue obliquely on Friday, by taking a swing at Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, noting that he had previously met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump then demanded an investigation of ties between Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Sessions recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigation after the Justice Department acknowledged he spoke twice with the Russian ambassador last year and failed to disclose the contacts during his Senate confirmation process.

Sessions said he did not tried to mislead anyone but could have been more careful in his answers. He planned to file amended testimony Monday, a Justice Department spokesman said.

The president responded to the Sessions issue obliquely Friday by taking a swing at Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, noting the New York senator previously met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a tweet, Trump posted a photo of Schumer with Putin during the Russian leader's visit to New York in 2003. He demanded an investigation of "close ties" between Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Russia and "lying about it." He called Schumer, who has demanded Sessions' resignation, a "total hypocrite."
 

Trump's Saturday morning tweets come less than a day after radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused Obama of executing a "silent coup" to unseat Trump and render him "effectively immaterial" as president.

"The real Russian scandal is the collusion between Barack Obama and his administration and the Russians," Limbaugh said. "Obama’s team used the pretext of Russian interference in the election to justify wiretaps and illegal leaks of the Trump team, including a U.S. senator and now attorney general."

By late morning, Trump had — at least temporarily — moved on, saying Arnold Schwarzenegger, his replacement on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" did not voluntarily leave the show but "was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me." He called it a "Sad end to a great show."

The movie star and former California governor announced Friday he was leaving the show after one season. He told Empire magazine that he would decline to return, even if asked. Trump, who has remained executive producer of the show, has mocked the show's sagging ratings.

“With Trump being involved in the show, people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show," Schwarzenegger said. "It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division."

USA Today


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