For a while there it seemed the White House was leaving President Donald Trump out to dry. The president made explosive claims against his predecessor in a bizarre tweetstorm early Saturday morning, accusing former President Obama of ordering wiretap surveillance of Trump Tower. The commander in chief even went as far as to compare the actions to “Nixon/Watergate” and characterizing his predecessor as a “bad (or sick) guy.” The allegations had serious implications, but the administration at large stayed silent. Until Sunday morning that is, when White House spokesman Sean Spicer called on Congress to investigate whether Obama abused his power in the runup to the election.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” Spicer said in a statement on Twitter. “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.” Until that is carried out “neither the White House nor the president will comment further.”
Although seemingly backing the president’s statements on Saturday, the White House still has not clarified what may have prompted the president’s accusations, referring only to unspecified “reports.” Speculation has been rampant that Trump was inspired by a Breitbart article that has reportedly been shared widely within the administration and its allies. A spokesman for Obama has denied the allegations as “simply false” and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle called for proof.
On Sunday, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper flatly denied that the communications of Trump Tower were wiretapped. “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign,” Clapper said on NBC’s Meet the Press. Clapper said that as far as he knows there was no Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act (FISA) order to monitor Trump Tower.
Speaking on CNN, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi characterized Trump’s claims of wiretapping as “ridiculous,” adding that it was another example of how the president is a “deflector in chief.” She noted that “it’s the tool of an authoritarian to have them always be talking about what you want to be talking about.”