Without citing any evidence, President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping communications in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. Right-wing media figures soon echoed and attempted to validate Trump’s allegations.
Trump Echoes Right-Wing Media, Makes Evidence-Free Claim That Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower
Trump Seemingly Cites Rumor From Right-Wing Radio Show To Accuse Obama Administration Of Spying On Him During Election, Offers No Evidence. On the morning of March 4, President Donald Trump began a series of tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of improperly having his communications in Trump Tower wiretapped during the presidential campaign. Trump cited no evidence to support his allegations, which, according to BuzzFeed, “appears to have followed a path through the pro-Trump media” and may have been sparked from a right-wing radio rumor that was featured in a Breitbart.com post. From BuzzFeed’s March 4 report:
Without offering a scintilla of evidence, President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former President Barack Obama of spying on him by ordering the wiretapping of phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign — a charge the former leader denied.
Like much of what Trump tweets, the Obama wiretap claim appears to have followed a path through the pro-Trump media. The president may have been referring to an article from alt-right media outlet Breitbart, which makes claims that Obama worked to undermine Trump during the election. The Breitbart story references a segment from conservative commentator Mark Levin’s Thursday night radio show in which he said Obama used surveillance techniques to gather information on Trump.
In a series of early morning tweets on Saturday, Trump shared the claims: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
In further tweets, Trump claimed a “good lawyer could make a great case” out of the alleged phone-tapping.
He also called Obama a “bad (or sick) guy,” comparing him to former President Richard Nixon and the infamous Watergate scandal. [BuzzFeed, 3/4/17]
Citing White House Officials, CNN’s Jake Tapper Reported Trump “Got The Info About Wiretap From Media - Breitbart, Levin." Tapper identified the media Trump reportedly relied on as Breitbart.com and conservative talk radio host Mark Levin:
WH officials with whom I spoke said POTUS got the info about wiretap from media - Breitbart, Levin - not from govt sources.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 5, 2017
Right-Wing Media Parrot Trump’s Allegations And Attack Obama Administration
Fox’s Sean Hannity Tweets: “What Did OBAMA Know And When Did He Know It?” Two hours following Trump’s initial tweet, Fox News host Sean Hannity retweeted Trump and added, “What did OBAMA know and when did he know it?” Hannity continued to attack former Obama administration officials on Twitter throughout the day about Trump’s claims. [Breitbart.com, 3/4/17]
What did OBAMA know and when did he know it?? https://t.co/jEgxz4OGzi
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) March 4, 2017
Gateway Pundit Post Calls Former DNI Clapper A “Proven Liar” After He Debunks Wiretapping Allegations. After former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asserted that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against” Trump during the campaign, right-wing blogger and Gateway Pundit owner Jim Hoft called him a “proven liar.” [Gateway Pundit, 3/5/17]
Discredited Author Ed Klein Baselessly Claims Trump Learned About Wiretapping From FBI Director. On Fox & Friends Sunday, discredited conservative author Ed Klein portrayed Trump’s allegations as real and speculated without evidence that Trump “is getting this … directly from James Comey.” Klein later added that Obama “must have known about it” and baselessly alleged that “it’s more likely that it was [Obama senior adviser] Valerie Jarrett and [Deputy National Security Adviser] Ben Rhodes who were part of this.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Sunday, 3/5/17]
Fox & Friends Sunday Hosts Mark Levin To Push Trump's Wiretapping Conspiracy, Which He Reportedly Started. Later on Fox & Friends Sunday, the show hosted right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin, the apparent originator of Trump’s allegations, to lay out the conspiracy theory in detail. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/5/17]
Breitbart Posts Levin Interview, Quotes Him Saying “The Evidence Is Overwhelming” On Wiretapping Claims. Breitbart.com posted a clip of Levin’s Fox & Friends Sunday interview, quoting him saying that “the evidence is overwhelming” that the Obama administration was “spying, and the question is not whether it spied. We know they went to the FISA court twice. The question is who they did spy on and the extent of the spying that is the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, Trump surrogates.” [Breitbart.com, 3/5/17]
Drudge Headline: “TRUMP: OBAMA BUGGED THE TOWER.” The Drudge Report gave Trump’s allegation central placement on its website:
[Drudge Report, 3/4/17]
Townhall Editor Katie Pavlich, Responding To Trump’s Claims, Tweets: “Yeah, The Obama Administration Would Never Target Political Enemies.” Pavlich’s tweet continued to hash out conspiracy theories of supposed political targeting by the Obama administration:
Yeah, the Obama administration would never target political enemies...(IRS vs. tea party groups, Holder vs. reporters, etc.)
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) March 5, 2017
Neo-Nazi And White Nationalist Website The Daily Stormer: “You’re All Going To Jail … Everyone In The Media And The Democrats All Know That This Is Real.” White nationalist, neo-nazi website The Daily Stormer asserted that Obama and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are “all going to jail.” The post continued to explicitly claim that “Obama did order the illegal surveillance of Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election.” Daily Stormer’s post also used a number of racial and anti-Semitic slurs. [The Daily Stormer, 3/5/17]