The White House did not provide evidence to back up Trump’s claim or explain the source of his information.
But two former senior US officials quickly dismissed Trump’s accusations out of hand.
“Just nonsense,” said one former senior US intelligence official.
Another former senior US official with direct knowledge of investigations by the Justice Department under the Obama administration said Trump’s phones were never tapped.
“This did not happen. It is false. Wrong,” the former official told CNN.
A spokesman for Obama, Kevin Lewis, called “any suggestion” that Obama or any White House official ordered surveillance against Trump “simply false.”
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Lewis said in a statement early Saturday afternoon. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Warrants to tap into someone’s phones in the course of a federal investigation would be sought by the Department of Justice, which conducts investigations independent of the White House and the president.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, an independent and secretive federal court, is responsible for issuing surveillance warrants in cases concerning foreign intelligence. The FBI has been investigating contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians known to US intelligence, and that court would likely be the forum to petition for such a warrant.
The former senior US official with direct knowledge of the Justice Department’s investigations said Obama could not have ordered such a warrant. It would have been taken to a judge by investigators, but investigators never sought a warrant to monitor Trump’s phones, the former official said.
A federal judge would only have approved a warrant to wiretap Trump’s phones if he or she had found probable cause that Trump had committed a federal crime or was a foreign agent.
Former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes echoed the point in a tweet responding to Trump on Saturday morning.
“No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you,” he said in his Twitter post.