Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Should Trump Have Accused Obama of Wiretapping?


Over the weekend President Donald Trump took to Twitter and made some very serious claims about former President Barack Obama.

Heat Street reported that FBI was granted a FISA warrant that covered the Trump campaign:

Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.

Contrary to earlier reporting in the New York Times, which cited FBI sources as saying that the agency did not believe that the private server in Donald Trump’s Trump Tower which was connected to a Russian bank had any nefarious purpose, the FBI’s counter-intelligence arm, sources say, re-drew an earlier FISA court request around possible financial and banking offenses related to the server. The first request, which, sources say, named Trump, was denied back in June, but the second was drawn more narrowly and was granted in October after evidence was presented of a server, possibly related to the Trump campaign, and its alleged links to two banks; SVB Bank and Russia’s Alfa Bank. While the Times story speaks of metadata, sources suggest that a FISA warrant was granted to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons.

Look, this may be true, but I caution against citing this as evidence. First, “sources say.” Both the Heat Street article, and The New York Times article it cites, are based on anonymous sources which makes for sketchy evidence at best.

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Second, let’s go over what President Trump said:

  1. He claims they were tapping his phones in Trump Tower.
  2. He compared it to Nixon/Watergate.

The only thing that has been suggested — even anonymously — was that a server was accessed and that it was done through a FISA warrant.

So, even if this is true, it does not involve his phone, and (agree with FISA or not) it was legal. And now President Obama’s surrogates are denying this.

Look, just because President Trump said this happened does not mean it is true. Believability is not proof. On the other hand, President Obama’s spokesperson’s denial doesn’t mean it is not true.

President Trump, since he fired off the accusations, must present evidence. Americans have a right to know.

There are four possible outcomes here.

  1. President Trump falsely accused his predecessor of illegal wiretapping.
  2. President Obama’s Justice Department had probable cause for surveillance, was granted a FISA warrant and found nothing. This makes the surveillance politically stupid — but not illegal.
  3. Obama’s Justice Department was given a FISA warrant to surveil the Trump campaign and gathered legitimate intelligence. (I doubt this, because it would have been leaked before the Electoral College voted otherwise.)
  4. President Obama’s Justice Department wiretapped/surveilled the Trump campaign illegally.

This is a serious allegation. I think U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) struck the right tone in his statement responding to President Trump’s allegation.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart, an Iowa native, is the online communications manager for the American Principles Project and a frequent contributor to Shane is also the Editor-in-Chief for, a popular Christian conservative blog.

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