Early this morning, President Donald Trump sent out a string of tweets, alleging that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower to undermine his campaign, and questioned the legality of such an action.
Trump’s tirade seems to have originated from allegations in a Breitbart article, which sums up the conspiracy theory as follows: the Obama administration monitored Trump Tower during the campaign, continued to do so, and allowed information such as the so-called Trump Dossier and Michael Flynn scandal to leak to the press, thereby undermining the newly inaugurated Trump administration. Radio Host Mark Levin called the action a “silent coup,” and called for an investigation.
A person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that President Trump “relied on Breitbart News for his information about the alleged wiretap.”
A spokesperson for Obama said that the allegations are “unequivocally false,” stating that the White House did not interfere with an official investigation.
It’s another example of how President Trump has been a bridge between far-right or conservative-leaning publications and the larger general public. Stephen Bannon, his chief strategist and senior counselor, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart, while in recent weeks, Trump has pulled talking points directly from Fox News.
It’s worth noting that the tweets follow a difficult week for Trump administration, and that the president has used Twitter to attempt to deflect or change coverage in the past. Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into alleged Russian interference during the election, following revelations that he had contact with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign. There are also several congressional and agency investigations underway to ascertain the extent of any Russian involvement during the election.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant that President Trump refers to in his Tweets isn’t exactly new: Heat Street broke word of the warrant broke on back November 7th, noting that the FBI had sought permission in October to investigate a server located in Trump Tower that might have been connected to a pair of Russian banks. An earlier request had been denied by the court earlier that summer. Breitbart’s timeline ties together the initial FISA request with other incidents over the course of last year: Wikileaks’ release of Clinton campaign emails, Trump’s “joke” about Russia conducting further hacks, and the release of campaign chair John Podesta’s emails in October, alleging that these incidents led to the warrant granted in October.
While President Trump questioned the legality of the order, such an action is perfectly legal. The FISA court has been given broad powers to intercept communications, and it’s part of a security apparatus that is currently in the hands of the Trump administration.
Update March 4th, 2017, 2:01PM ET: Added statement from Obama’s spokesperson.
Update March 5th, 2017, 8:25AM ET: Added quote from Bloomberg.