WASHINGTON — President Trump’s explosive and unsubstantiated claim Saturday that then-President Obama wiretapped his phones before the November election broke new ground in terms of a president publicly assailing a predecessor and left observers and lawmakers seeking a more expansive explanation than Trump’s string of tweets.
“In the past, presidents have privately muttered accusations against their predecessors,” said Jack Pitney Jr., a former aide to House and Senate Republicans and a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. “It’s very unusual for a president to come this close to accusing a predecessor of a potential crime.”
Trump offered no evidence to support his accusations, lobbed during a Saturday morning tweetstorm. An Obama spokesman rejected them as “simply false.”
The outburst follows several days of stories raising questions about meetings between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials, particularly two previously undisclosed meetings between now Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump wrote. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”