What You Need to Know About President Trump's Wiretapping Accusations

March 4th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Saturday morning (read: between 3 and 4 a.m.) to publicly accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election. He provided no evidence for the claim, which the Obama administration quickly refuted.

In a series of tweets, Trump compared the potential scandal to Watergate, likening President Obama to President Richard Nixon. Trump then launched a more personal attack, implying that Obama was a “bad (or sick) guy.”  

Obama spokesperson Kevin Lewis responded clarifying how such wiretapping matters are handled: The Department of Justice, with the approval of a federal judge, decides who they want to wiretap in the course of their investigations, not the White House.

Last year, the FBI found no conclusive leads tying then-candidate Trump to the Russian government after investigating him. There were no public mentions of wiretaps, which would require the approval of a federal judge, during that investigation.

Trump’s unsourced claim sets the stage for the most public stand-off between a sitting and former president in recent memory. Not everyone is buying into the hype.

At least one congressional Democrat, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), has implied on Twitter that Trump’s wiretap narrative is simply a distraction from growing calls from members of Congress to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who admitted to making contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign, recused himself Thursday from any possible investigation. Sessions, who lied under oath about having conversations with Kislyak during his confirmation hearing, joins a growing list of Trump officials to have talked to the ambassador before gaining employment in the executive branch.

Last month, former national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned after it was found that he may have lied to the FBI—potentially a felony—about discussing sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before he became a Trump administration official.

Session’s recusal is not likely to put to rest the choir of congressional Democrats and some Republicans who believe an independent prosecutor should be brought in on any congressional investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia, given that it simply puts the case in the hands of the Deputy Attorney General. Minority Leader and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has even gone so far as to call for Sessions to resign for lying to the American people under oath.

At least one former Trump advisor has come forward to say that he also met with the Russian ambassador.