WASHINGTON -- The president was out of sight on Monday after he insisted over the weekend that his phones had been tapped by President Obama.
President Trump offered no basis for four Twitter posts on Saturday. They included: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The spelling and punctuation are the president’s.
The claim, which Mr. Trump described as “a fact,” was repudiated by the FBI director and the former Director of National Intelligence.
Since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has continually stamped rumors with the seal of the president, including “millions” of illegal votes for Hillary Clinton, terror attacks no one knows about, and describing the news media as “a great danger to our country.”
But on Monday, the wiretap claim seemed to cross a line. Democrats and Republicans called on Mr. Trump to provide evidence.
It began with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision Thursday to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian meddling during the campaign -- after revelations he spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year.
Mr. Trump strongly disagreed with the attorney general’s decision.
That same day, conservative radio host Mark Levin accused the Obama administration of using what he called “police state tactics.”
“The incredible scandal here is the Obama administration was investigating top officials in the Trump campaign, maybe even Trump himself -- during the course of the election!” Levin said.
Breitbart, a website formerly run by Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, also published those claims on Friday.
Then, early Saturday morning, President Trump posted four tweets.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” one tweet read.
A spokesman for President Obama called the accusation “false” and said “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.”
James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, told NBC that no such warrant existed.
“I can deny it,” Clapper said.
On Sunday, the White House, in a statement, called for Congress to investigate.
On Monday, adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president was basing his statement on a variety of sources.
“The president, based on his information and belief, has said that we were surveilled and we appreciate the fact that the intelligence committees in the House and Senate may in fact combine their investigations or expand them to include this,” Conway said.
The White House refused to say whether the president privately consulted advisers or President Obama about these serious allegations before publicly posting them on his Twitter feed.