WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made a stunning claim Saturday, alleging without offering evidence that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election.
A spokesman for Obama called the unverified claim “simply false.”
The president went on to compare the alleged tapping of his phones to Watergate and called Obama “bad (or “sick).”
“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,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.
“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Asked about Trump’s tweets on Saturday, a former senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of investigations by the Justice Department under the Obama administration denied there was any such investigation of Trump or that his phones were tapped.
“This did not happen. It is false. Wrong,” the former official said.
The official said clearly that Obama could not order this. It would have been taken to a judge by investigators, but investigators never did that, the former official said.
Trump did not offer evidence for his stunning claim, which has not been verified, and the White House did not immediately return requests for comment Saturday morning.
An Obama spokesman had no comment regarding Trump’s claims.
The tweets are the latest controversial assertions by the president in the back-and-forth over questions about whether his campaign made contact with Russians known to U.S. intelligence.
During an interview with “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, Trump also blamed Obama and his supporters for organized demonstrations that have sprung up nationwide since the election and for leaks that have hindered Trump’s messaging. He did not provide evidence to support those claims.
Former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted in response that presidents can’t order wiretapping.
“No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” he said in his Twitter post.