Trump accuses Obama of tapping his phones

Cites no evidence to substantiate claim

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his telephones during last year’s election, lodging a startling allegation of abuse of power without evidence or explanation.

An Obama spokesman declared the assertion “simply false.”

In a series of angry morning tweets, Trump suggested his predecessor was behind a politically motivated plot to upend his campaign. He compared the alleged events to “Nixon/Watergate” and “McCarthyism!” He called Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy.”

Trump’s claims drew bipartisan rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike who find his habit of venting on social media to be beneath the office of the president. After delivering a well-received speech to Congress earlier this week, the tweets reflected the president’s growing frustration with the swirling allegations about his advisers’ ties to Russia, which are under FBI investigation, and his team’s inability to overcome them. Trump lashed out at his senior team during an Oval Office meeting Friday, according to one White House official.

The White House did not respond to questions about what prompted the president’s accusations that Obama had tapped his phones. Presidents cannot legally order wiretaps against U.S. citizens.

Trump said Saturday morning he had “just found out” the information, though it was unclear whether he was referring to a briefing, a conversation or a media report. The president has in the past tweeted about unsubstantiated and provocative reports he reads on blogs or conservative websites.

Still, the morning tweets stand out, even for the perpetually piqued Trump, given the gravity of the charge and the strikingly personal attack on the former president. Trump spoke as recently as last month about how much he likes Obama and how much they get along, despite their differences.

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

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered in Justice Department investigations, which are supposed to be conducted free of political influence.

“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” Lewis said, adding that “any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that Trump was making “the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called on Trump to explain what he knows about the wiretapping allegations “ideally to the full public, and at a bare minimum to the U.S. Senate.”

Trump has been trailed for months by questions about his campaign’s ties to Russia. The questions have been compounded by U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered with the election to help Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton, along with disclosures about his aides’ contacts with a Russian official.