Politics

Here's Why Trump May Think Obama Tapped His Phones

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The reason President Donald Trump is accusing former President Barack Obama of wire tapping his phones at Trump Tower may have to do with the U.S. Department of Justice intercepting electronic communications by two Russian banks that may have been putting money into the U.S. presidential race.

In April 2016, the CIA director was shown intelligence of a tape recording of a conversation that allegedly discussed money from the Kremlin going into the U.S. presidential campaign, the BBC reports.

Because of that information, a counter task force that included six agencies or departments of government was formed. The FBI, Department of the Treasury and DOJ dealt with the U.S. side of the inquiry, while the CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Agency were responsible for the foreign and intelligence aspects.

In June 2016, lawyers from the National Security Division in the DOJ submitted a warrant to the Fisa court, named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, for approval to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks. A judge rejected the application, but on Oct. 15, three weeks before the U.S. election, a judge granted a second, more narrowly drawn order.

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Trump was not named in the Fisa order, as it only covered foreign citizens or foreign entities, but investigators could look at transfers made between Russian banks and the U.S.

According to a lawyer outside of the DOJ who is familiar with the case, three of Trump's associates were the subject of the inquiry.

"...It's clear this is about Trump," the lawyer said.

Trump's campaign's ties to Russia have been in question since early 2016, and it has since been revealed that Trump aides had previously undisclosed conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, CNN reports. Trump says the media is performing a witch hunt with its questions and investigation into his alleged ties to Russia.

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A March 3 report published by Breitbart accuses Obama's administration of orchestrating a takedown of Trump. The Breitbart story mentions the Fisa reports, but states no evidence was found although the wire tapping allegedly continued on Trump's campaign.

"The Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media," the Breitbart report reads.

However, Trump himself was not under surveillance, it was two Russian banks, the BBC notes.

Trump sent out a series of tweets responding to the accusations on March 4:

I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

Senior officials with knowledge of a wide-ranging federal investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election told The Washington Post that a wiretap was not set up on Trump.

In a series of tweets on March 5, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced Trump wants an investigation into the Obama administration:

Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President 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. Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.

Sources: BBC, Breitbart, CNN (2), Donald Trump/Twitter (2), The Washington Post, Sean Spicer/Twitter (2) (3) (4) / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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