Before Donald Trump was president, he allegedly listened in on phone lines at his company's Palm Beach, Florida, resort, Mar-a-Lago, according to former employees.
The former workers told BuzzFeed that Trump had a telephone console installed in the bedroom of his private apartment that was like a switchboard, wherein he could connect to every phone extension on the property. Some of the workers said he used the console to listen in on calls involving staff.
"This is totally and completely untrue," Hope Hicks, now director of strategic communications for the White House, said of the alleged eavesdropping.
But four employees, who spoke only with the promise of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements, said Trump listened in on phone calls at the resort during the mid-2000s. They added that they had all personally seen the telephone console in his bedroom. The workers do not know if the eavesdropping also occurred more recently.
A light on a separate staff switchboard would reportedly turn on when Trump listened in on calls, which is how employees knew he was on the line.
The calls he reportedly listened in on were between club employees or between staff and guests, and only occurred via landlines at the resort. The workers did not know whether he eavesdropped on guests or members private calls with people who were not employed at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump's former butler and Mar-a-Lago's former security director said the console was there to make it easier for Trump to contact other rooms in the estate because he could bypass the front desk, and that he did not listen in on any calls.
On March 4, Trump alleged that President Barack Obama wire tapped Trump Tower during the presidential election.
"Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory," Trump tweeted. "Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
Offering no evidence, Trump continued in a series of tweets to accuse Obama of spying on him:
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!
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!
Two former senior U.S. officials dismissed Trump's accusations to CNN.
"Just nonsense," one official said.
"This did not happen," another senior official, who had direct knowledge of investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama administration, said of Trump's phones being tapped adding: "It is false. Wrong."
Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, issued a statement regarding Trump's allegations on behalf of the former president.
"A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice," he said. "As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
Based on U.S. law, Obama, or any president, cannot order a wiretap; DOJ investigators must take the warrant to a judge. Investigators did not seek a warrant to monitor Trump's phones, a former senior official said. And it only would have been sought if Trump was believed to have committed a federal crime or was a foreign agent.