Donald Trump’s early-morning Tweet barrage on Saturday, March 4th, claimed that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 elections. Immediately this grabbed national attention and spawned controversy over the unproven claims. However, Trump offered no evidence for his claim, instead calling for a Congressional investigation into what he claimed had happened.
Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), a leading member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has released a response to Trump’s statement. Sasse’s statement demands further information from the President, saying that the wiretap must have been “either with FISA Court authorization or without such authorization.”
FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was enacted in 1978 to restrict the use of wiretaps and other methods of surveillance by US intelligence agencies. It establishes a Foreign Intelligence Service Court, which hears requests for surveillance and issues warrants when justified. If the alleged wiretap was permitted by the FISA court, Sasse points out, there must be records of the wiretap request and the court’s decision, which the President could choose to declassify and make available — “ideally to the full public, and at a bare minimum to the U.S. Senate,” Sasse writes.
However, Sasse adds, if the wiretap was not authorized by the FISA court, then “the President should explain what sort of wiretap it was and how he knows this.” Such a wiretap would have been extremely illegal, especially if used against the opposing party’s presidential candidate.
However, Trump has still not offered any evidence regarding what the wiretap. President Obama’s spokesman has absolutely denied Trump’s charges, saying that the president does not order wiretaps. FBI director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA chief Michael Hayden have all either denied or expressed skepticism about Trump’s claims.
It is possible that electronic surveillance may have been used at Trump Tower as part of an ongoing investigation into the activities of foreign, especially Russian, agents. Such surveillance would not have been directed at Trump himself, however.