Everything You Need To Know About Trump's Claim That Obama Tapped His Phones

This weekend marked the beginning of a showdown between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, with the current POTUS accusing his predecessor of bugging Trump Tower last year.

The accusations began flying on Twitter early Saturday morning, when Trump accused Obama of setting up wiretaps of his New York campaign headquarters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. He said Obama had sunk to a "new low" and called the former president "sick."

On Sunday, the White House stepped things up by calling for the congressional committee members who are already investigating Russian interference in last year's election to also examine whether an abuse of "executive branch investigative powers" occurred.

To be clear, Trump has provided no evidence whatsoever in support of this allegation.

Obama's people categorically deny that he tapped Trump's phone. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said this is all complete nonsense. "There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign."

You can bet there will be more on Wiretapping-gate in the future, but for now, check out how the battle unfolded, what's at stake, and what's ahead as the investigation unfolds.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The Latest News

Over the weekend, F.B.I. director James Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject President Trump's claims that President Obama had wire tapped him during the election season, The New York Times reported.

However, the president reportedly rejected Comey's assertion.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House's deputy press secretary, was asked by George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America whether the president accepted Comey's denial that wire tapping ever took place on Trump Towers.

"You know, I don’t think he does, George," she responded.
Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images.
What is Donald Trump Accusing Barack Obama of Doing?

President Trump accused former President Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election. His claims were shared via his personal Twitter account and he offered no proof to back them up and, initially, no calls for a formal investigation.

“Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump said of Obama, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.” Most pundits suspect that Trump was referring to commentary he'd seen on Breitbart and heard on conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump's senior staff, a White House official told The Washington Post.

Here are the four explosive Trump tweets about this suspicion of the wire-tapping:

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

"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!"

"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!"

"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
Photo: Getty Images.
Can A President Order A Wiretap On A Private Citizen?

No. The Department of Justice can seek wiretap surveillance, but a judge must grant it.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's ex-foreign policy advisor and speechwriter, has been defending Obama on Twitter. "No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you," Rhodes tweeted.

On Sunday, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied any suggestion of wiretapping in Trump Tower communications before the election. For the part of the national security apparatus that he oversaw, "there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign," Clapper told Chuck Todd in an exclusive interview on Sunday's Meet The Press.
What Is Obama Saying About It?

Obama has yet to comment personally on the allegations, but his surrogates have come out in his defense.

Obama's spokesman Kevin Lewis roundly rejected Trump's claims that the previous administration had ordered surveillance at his New York City residence. On Saturday, Lewis tweeted, "Neither @barackobama nor any WH official under Obama has ever ordered surveillance on any US Citizen. Any suggestion is unequivocally false."
Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP Images.
What Does the White House Say It Is Investigating?

The White House said on Sunday that the administration wants the congressional committee members who are already investigating Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election to examine whether there was an abuse of "executive branch investigative powers," i.e., wiretapping, in 2016.

On Sunday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters there would be no further White House comment until the committees conclude their work.

Here's the full statement, as reported by Politico: "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016. Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted."

Just before Spicer's statement, Trump sent out two early morning tweets, sent around 3:40 a.m. ET on Sunday morning. The first one took aim at the Democratic National Committee. "Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?" Trump tweeted.

Shortly afterward, Trump took a swing at Obama referring to a statement he made as he was running for a second term in 2012. "Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, 'Tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility?'" he wrote, adding an @ mention to Fox and Friends.