White House wants Congress to investigate Barack Obama - Macleans.ca

White House wants Congress to investigate Barack Obama

Will Donald Trump’s tweeted allegations of wire taps and abuse of power distract from his own Russian scandals?



President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/CP)

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/CP)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The White House on Sunday demanded that Congress, which is already investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, also examine whether former President Barack Obama abused his executive powers in connection with that campaign.

The request followed President Donald Trump’s claim Saturday that his predecessor had tapped the telephones at Trump Tower. Trump offered no supporting evidence, a spokesman for Obama said the claim is “simply false” and lawmakers in both parties asked for proof.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence under Obama, said Sunday that no such wiretap activity was carried out against Trump as a candidate or against his campaign.

“Absolutely, I can deny it,” said Clapper, who left the White House when Trump took office Jan. 20.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced the request in a statement Sunday that referred to “very troubling” reports “concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election.” He did not respond to inquiries about those reports.

Trump said the wiretapping happened in October at the New York skyscraper where he ran his campaign and transition.

“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,” Spicer said.

Spicer’s chief deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said she thinks Trump is “going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.” If the conduct alleged is confirmed, Sanders said it would amount to the “greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself.”

“The American people have a right to know if this took place,” she said of a congressional inquiry.

Josh Earnest, who was Obama’s press secretary, said presidents do not have authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of American citizens, as Trump has alleged was done to him. FBI investigators and Justice Department officials must seek a federal judge’s approval to investigate by demonstrating that probable cause exists.

Earnest accused Trump of levelling the allegations, in a series of tweets Saturday, to distract from the attention being given to campaign-season contacts by his aides with a Russian official, including campaign adviser Jeff Sessions before he resigned from the Senate to become attorney general. The FBI is investigating those contacts, as is Congress.

“There is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook, and that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from a scandal,” Earnest said. “And the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”

Republican members of the House and Senate intelligence committees appeared accepting of the president’s request.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the House committee chairman, said in a statement that a focus of the panel’s investigation is the U.S. government’s response to Russian actions during the election. “As such, the committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a member of the Senate panel, said he’d seen no evidence of Trump’s allegations, but was sure the committee would include the matter in its ongoing investigation.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said Trump’s allegations “follow a deeply disturbing pattern of distraction, distortion and downright fabrication.”

“Sean Spicer today tweeted that the administration would have no further comment until this matter was investigated and who can blame him: not even Spicer wishes to have to speak to such a unsubstantiated charge,” said Schiff, who has complained publicly amount the information committee members have been receiving from FBI Director James Comey.

Trump’s call for Congress to investigate Obama has risks, though, particularly if damaging information about him or his associates is uncovered. Lawmakers are promising to follow the evidence wherever it takes them.

In his tweets, Trump compared the alleged wiretapping to “Nixon/Watergate” and “McCarthyism!” And he called Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy.”

Trump said in the tweets that 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 in the past has tweeted about unsubstantiated and provocative reports he reads on blogs or conservative websites.

The tweets stand out, 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 Saturday that 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.

“Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” Lewis said.

Trump has been trailed for months by questions about his campaign’s ties to Russia. Compounding the situation is the 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.

Those disclosures cost retired Gen. Michael Flynn his job as national security adviser.

Democrats had called for Sessions to resign but last week he withdrew from overseeing the FBI probe after acknowledging failure to disclose his campaign-season contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States when asked during his confirmation proceedings. Sessions was a U.S. senator at the time, and Trump’s earliest Senate supporter.

Trump’s allegations may be related to anonymously sourced reports in British media and blogs, and on conservative-leaning U.S. websites, including Breitbart News. Those reports claimed that U.S. officials had obtained a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to review contacts between computers at a Russian bank and Trump’s New York headquarters.

The Associated Press has not confirmed these contacts or an investigation into them. Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon is a former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

Clapper appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders and Earnest were on ABC’s “This Week” and Cotton commented on “Fox News Sunday.”


White House wants Congress to investigate Barack Obama

  1. Trump is hoping it will distract rom the Russians, but that’s unlikely.

    • Yup. The whole Sessions thang.

  2. I wonder… is the President exempt from US libel and defamation laws? Given how Trump likes to sue everyone in sight, it would be amusing to see Obama sue his ass over this nonsense…

    • Not knowing any actual facts about the wire-tapping charges, Keithbram nevertheless has concluded that it’s nonsense. The name for this is “prejudice” or pre-judging the case.
      Someone who actually knows facts about the background of the charges and also has a gifted legal mind is Mark Levin.
      Keithbram would be well-advised to pay attention to someone like Mr. Levin, and put some serious thought into the matter before rushing to judgement based on nothing but visceral political prejudice..

      • The MSM (which I believe to be biased, but not a purveyor of ‘fake news’) has consistently reported that there’s no evidence to back up this claim. Trump himself has been curiously silent on substantiating the claim.

        An admittedly cursory google on Levine on this issue revealed nothing substantive. If you’d like to share the facts that Levine supposedly knows that substantiate the claim, it would be appreciated, as I can find nada. At this point in time, AFAICT, this claim has no substance.

  3. Question: Mr. Obama, did you tap the Trump phone at Trump Tower?

    Obama: No. Definitely not.

    Question never asked: Mr. Obama, did you tap the Russian Embassy phone (between the Embassy and Trump Tower)?

    Obama: P$# off!

    • It would be more odd if the USG was *not* tapping the Russian Embassy phone.
      At any rate, I don’t see how tapping the Russian Embassy phone is relevant to whether Trump’s phone was tapped.

      • Hmm, so when the Russian ambassador phones Trump Tower, Obama could be aware of it (without any actual physical tap [twisted wires] at Trump Tower). The pertinent question here is, ‘Was Obama’s team listening to Trump’s team.’ Relevant, eh?

        • That would be a totally different issue from what is being discussed – whether Obama had Trump’s phone tapped. And AFAICT, assuming proper procedures were followed, tapping the Russian’s Embassy’s phone would not be illegal.

        • The real tell-tale to me was when a Democratic spokesperson cautioned CNN that they shouldn’t say there was no wire tapping but rather that none were requested by the Obama White House. Now if anyone believes that Obama wasn’t briefed on whatever was heard, I have some nice swamp land for sale.

  4. So, think this through even further. The Democrats are calling for a special investigator. Trump resists, and the Dem’s squawk even louder. But, is this really something the Democrats want? Let’s say Trump/Republicans appoint someone such as Mike Flynn to do exactly that, or Ted Cruz for that matter. We know that the Clinton team had off-the-record talks with the Chinese ambassador back when everyone with a byline thought she was going to be the next POTUS. Do the Dem’s really want Trump/Congress chasing down every clinton.com email? How many people had email addresses linked to Hillary’s infamous server? If the Clinton’s were in close contact with the Chinese, and we know they had dealings with certain Putin-linked firms, do the Dem’s really want that can of worms opened? But, they’re the ones waving the can opener around.
    There are a lot of moving parts on this right now, and I’d guess the Democrats and most of the media are not really aware of what’s in motion. The Obama camp has couched their denials of wiretaps in very strict legalese. Hillary’s pardon has been taken off the table by Team Trump, thanks to her actions and certain statements. Mike Flynn, himself a longtime spymaster, has been moved from the front lines of Team Trump to the back rooms. The former attorney general has made a video in which she calls for violent insurrection against a legally elected and lawfully sitting president.
    My guess is that Trump is two steps ahead of them. He’ll yield to their call for a special investigator, but it will be the guy they least want. They’ve called for an investigation into everything. That’s what he’ll give them, denying them the opportunity to protest about what they don’t think needs to be looked at. The Wikileaks dumps of DNC emails weren’t the product of the Russians. They were from a disgruntled Democratic Party underling. We know from the IRS, EPA, and DOJ revelations, that billions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled to activist, domestic, anti-American organizations by the Obama administration. Are we to believe that no one who saw that going on maybe downloaded some info to a jump drive, and has saved it for a rainy day?
    My guess is that the Democratic Party has started a shit-storm that’s going to blow back upon them.

    • Bill,
      I hope you’re right. If you are, unfortunately the left leaning MSM will give the Clinton side a positive spin and the Trump side a negative one.