Trump claims Obama launched Russia probe to discredit campaign
President Donald Trump on Monday accused the Obama administration of using the investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election to discredit his bid and boost the chances of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November? Wanted to discredit so Crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.
It’s unclear exactly what pre-election investigation Trump was referring to, though the FBI opened its investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia in July 2016. Then-FBI Director James Comey oversaw that investigation until Trump fired him in May 2017. Shortly after that, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel to continue the probe.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was wiretapped before and after the election. Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, three sources familiar with the investigation have told CNN. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive. Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman from May to August 2016.
The FBI also eavesdropped on Carter Page, a campaign associate that then candidate Trump once identified as a national security adviser, on suspicions he was acting as a Russian agent. Page stepped away from the campaign in September 2016 amid questions about his Russian ties.
The surveillance of Manafort and Page was approved by the secret court that oversees domestic surveillance of American citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In Page’s case, the FBI and Justice Department presented enough evidence to the court to convince Republican-appointed judges to continue the surveillance into mid-2017.
Trump, who has called the investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia a “witch hunt,” has repeatedly slammed the Obama administration’s handling of the Russia investigation, saying it “did nothing.”
Before leaving office, however, Obama applied new economic sanctions on the Russian government, ordered the State Department to shut down Russian compounds in Maryland and New York, and expelled 35 Russian diplomats that he described as “intelligence operatives.”