Without citing evidence, Donald Trump on Saturday accused Barack Obama of a Watergate-style “wire tapping” of his offices in New York before the US presidential election, a move critics dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from investigations of his ties to Russia .
A spokesman for Obama said the accusation was “simply false”, the Guardian reports.
The unprecedented attack by a president on his predecessor, made in a series of early morning tweets, stoked speculation that Trump’s remarks were prompted by stories circulating in rightwing media , including one that claimed Obama is attempting a “silent coup” against Trump.
The president this week endured another avalanche of revelations about his associates’ contacts with Russia. Most damagingly it emerged that his attorney general, former Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, failed to tell senators about two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US last year.
Last month the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign over conversations with the ambassador and misleading statements about them to the vice-president, Mike Pence.
Earlier this year US intelligence agencies reported that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump, who has repeatedly proven reluctant to publicly criticise Vladimir Putin.
On Saturday, the President launched a series of tweets that began at 5.35am . In one he wrote: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
He followed up with a string of tweets in the next half-hour that claimed Obama had defied a court rejection to tap his office, and invited a “good lawyer” to make a case against the alleged process.
The President then compared the alleged surveillance of his communications to Watergate – the scandal in which a 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters led to revelation of crime and cover-up at the highest level of government and, ultimately, the resignation of Richard Nixon.
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump tweeted. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, tweeted back at Trump: “No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.”
Later an Obama spokesman, Kevin Lewis, issued a statement that did not deny there was a wiretapping but did deny that Obama ordered one.
“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,” the statement said.
“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
No evidence was provided to substantiate the president’s claims that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, and it was not clear on what information Trump was basing his allegations.
A US official told the Guardian there was “no evidence to support that claim” of Obama ordering Trump to be wiretapped.
Just before last November’s election, the British former MP and novelist
Louise Mensch reported that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court had granted a warrant to enable the FBI to conduct surveillance of “US persons” in an investigation of possible contacts between Russian banks and the Trump Organization.
Two months later the BBC published an article backing up Mensch’s original story about the Fisa court warrant issued in October to allow the justice department to scrutinise transfers and communications between Trump associates and Russian banks. US intelligence agencies were investigating the link, it added.
The Guardian reported in January that the Fisa court had turned down an application, asking the FBI to narrow the terms of inquiry.