Trump claims Obama wiretapped him during campaign; Obama refutes it

UNTV News   •   March 5, 2017   •   2320

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets President-elect Donald Trump at inauguration ceremonies swearing in Trump as president on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump accused predecessor Barack Obama on Saturday of wiretapping him during the late stages of the 2016 election campaign, but offered no evidence for an allegation which an Obama spokesman said was “simply false”.

Trump made the accusation in a series of early morning tweets just weeks into his administration and amid rising scrutiny of his campaign’s ties to Russia.

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!,” Trump wrote in one tweet. “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!”

The remarkable tussle between the current and former presidents just 45 days since the handover of power is the latest twist in a controversy over ties between Trump associates and Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic emails during the election campaign as part of an effort to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Trump has accused officials in Obama’s administration of trying to discredit him with questions about Russia contacts.

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said it had been a “cardinal rule” of the Obama administration that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice.

“Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” Lewis said in a statement.

The statement did not address the possibility that a wiretap of the Trump campaign could have been ordered by Justice Department officials.

Trump said the alleged wiretapping took place in his Trump Tower office and apartment building in New York, but there was “nothing found.” The White House did not respond to a request to elaborate on Trump’s accusations.

AIDES CAUGHT BY SURPRISE

Trump was spending the weekend at his Florida seaside resort, Mar-a-Lago. He was scheduled to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly before a dinner with officials also including adviser Steve Bannon and White House Counsel Don McGahn, the White House said.

Amid a political storm, Sessions on Thursday announced he would stay out of any probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election after it emerged he met last year with Russia’s ambassador, although he maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose the meeting.

A Trump spokeswoman said the president spent part of Saturday “having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls” at his golf course in West Palm Beach.

His supporters, meanwhile, staged small rallies in at least 28 of the country’s 50 states, most of which passed off peacefully. But there were clashes in the famously left-leaning city of Berkeley, California, where protesters from both sides hit each other over the head with wooden sticks.

Trump’s tweets caught his aides by surprise, with one saying it was unclear what the president was referring to.

Members of Congress said Trump’s accusations require investigation or explanation.

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican, described the allegations as serious and said the public deserved more information. He said in a statement it was possible that Trump had been illegally tapped, but, if so, the president should explain what sort of tap it was and how he knew about it.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s assertion a “spectacularly reckless allegation”.

“If there is something bad or sick going on, it is the willingness of the nation’s chief executive to make the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them,” Schiff said in a statement.

Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes strongly denied Trump’s allegations: “No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” Rhodes wrote on Twitter.

RUSSIA SANCTIONS

Trump’s administration has come under pressure from Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional investigations into contacts between some members of his campaign team and Russian officials during his campaign.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he had no knowledge of any wiretapping but was “very worried” about the suggestion Obama had acted illegally and would also be concerned “if in fact the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity.”

Several other Republicans again urged an investigation into a series of intelligence-related leaks.

Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the United States in December over the country’s involvement in hacking political parties in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election.

Under U.S. law, a federal court would have to have found probable cause that the target of the surveillance is an “agent of a foreign power” in order to approve a warrant authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump Tower.

Several conservative news outlets and commentators have made allegations in recent days about Trump being wiretapped during the campaign, without offering any evidence.

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office.

Flynn had promised Vice President Mike Pence he had not discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by U.S. officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador. — By David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

(Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in West Palm Beach, Florida, Richard Cowan and Steve Holland in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)

Trump calls off meeting with Danish prime minister over Greenland comments

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (August 20) he was postponing his scheduled meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in two weeks because of her lack of interest in his offer to purchase Greenland.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

A White House official said Trump had dropped the Sept. 2-3 stop in Denmark, a NATO ally. Trump had been due to discuss the Arctic in meetings in Copenhagen with Frederiksen, who took office in June, and Prime Minister Kim Kielsen of Greenland.

He is due to visit Poland on Aug. 31.

Frederiksen said on Sunday the idea of selling Greenland to the United States was absurd after an economic adviser to Trump confirmed U.S. interest in buying the world’s largest island.

“Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously,” Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq during a visit to Greenland.

Trump confirmed to reporters on Sunday that he had recently discussed the possibility of buying Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, although he said such a move was not an immediate priority.

“The concept came up and … strategically it’s interesting,” Trump told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey.

A defense treaty between Denmark and the United States dating back to 1951 gives the U.S. military rights over the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland.

Trump’s interest in buying Greenland has been met with incredulity and humor. Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who recently stepped down as Danish prime minister, tweeted last week: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.” (Reuters)

(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)

Hong Kong doesn’t need “suggestions” after Trump Tiananmen comments – China

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang (Image grabbed from Reuters footage)

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday (August 19) that Hong Kong doesn’t need “suggestions” after U.S. President Donald Trump told media that a “Tiananmen”-style crackdown on Hong Kong’s recent anti-government protests would harm trade talks between the two countries.

“President Trump has previously said that Hong Kong is part of China and they must solve their problem by themselves. They don’t need any suggestions. We hope the U.S. side can live up their word,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media in Beijing.

In recent weeks U.S. President Donald Trump has made a series of comments on Hong Kong via twitter, one of which urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet with protesters to diffuse weeks of tensions.

Hundreds of China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP) continue to be stationed at a sports stadium in Shenzhen that borders Hong Kong.

The U.S. State Department has said it was “deeply concerned” about the movements, which have prompted worries that the troops could be used to break up protests. (Reuters)

(Wang Shubing, Irene Wang, Joseph Campbell)

Trump’s visit to mass shooting sites ‘not welcome’

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

Flowers, messages and candles reflect the grief
of the communities where two mass shootings took place last weekend.

The communities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 31 people were killed and scores more were wounded in two mass shootings last weekend, are not open to the United States President Donald Trump’s scheduled visits to their cities.

As the communities grieve, some politicians in both cities say the president isn’t welcome.

There is a mountain of flowers, messages, and candles, which is a symbol of the heartbreak and devastation calls for the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday.

The city’s hospitals continue to treat those wounded in the attack.

Some of the survivors are still coming to terms with the horror.

“We were going to the store to get groceries for my kids. It just went chaotic as soon as we got there. My mum was in the produce department and I was in the drink department. And then I heard a gunshot,” said Christopher Grant, a survivor in El Paso attack.

The El Paso community continues to mourn the horrid events over the weekend. This is now one of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. And tensions continue to run high ahead of Trump’s visit here.

“Don’t let him come here. That’s what I have been hearing all day,” said Veronica Escobar, a congresswoman in Texas.

Escobar is among those who say Trump isn’t welcome, saying the president has repeatedly targeted the Mexican community.

“The words that he has used to describe Hispanics and immigrants have fueled a lot of that hatred and that bigotry and have inspired some violence,” she said.

Trump is also scheduled to visit Dayton, Ohio, the scene of the other mass shooting last weekend.

The mayor of the city has criticized the president for not being stronger on gun control.

Mexican authorities are threatening legal action, claiming the U.S. failed to protect their citizens that died in the El Paso attack.

Two cities devastated by mass shootings united in grief. (REUTERS)

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