Does anybody understand what Trump was referring to in the following 3/4/17 tweet:

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

I thought about this tweet already for some weeks, but I still have absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

  • Don't feel bad, Trump generally does not have any idea of what he is talking about in his Tweets, either. Jun 11, 2018 at 18:37

3 Answers 3


It is about the non-existent wiretapping of Trump tower (not Trump personally). It was a made-up scandal at the beginning of 2017.

  • 5
    @KDog I don't see how that is related to the specific false claim that Trump was wiretapped. If you do, please provide sources (ideally in an answer that lays out the connection).
    – tim
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:30
  • 10
    @KDog I think there is a difference between "Obama tapped Trumps phones" and "Manafort was under surveillance by the FBI for years because of alleged criminal activity". Anyways, I'm done discussing this in the comments. If you have actual information that helps answer the question, please just post an answer with sources.
    – tim
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:42
  • 5
    Who knew there was such a big difference between "Obama's DOJ wiretapped me personally" and "Obama's DOJ wiretapped all the Russian criminal and spy entities that I just happen to communicate with"? So very unfair. Sad!
    – C. Helling
    Jun 8, 2018 at 14:56
  • 6
    @user_42 Even if Trumps communication with Manafort was intercepted (I don't know any reliable sources that say this for sure), there is a difference. In one case, some of Trumps communication was intercepted; in the other, all of it was because Trump was the target. If I call a drug dealer, and the FBI listens to that call, then I wasn't wiretapped. That's not how things work. I also think it's a bit odd to talk about "sides" when one side is a government organization and the other side is an alleged criminal. It makes it seem like a deep state conspiracy instead of a normal investigation
    – tim
    Jun 8, 2018 at 15:02
  • 7
    @KDog You're wrong on that one as well.... The basis for warrants was papadopolous talking about getting dirt on hillary from the russians to a foreign official.
    – xyious
    Jun 8, 2018 at 16:00

During the election the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was recording some conversations that involved people of interest in FBI investigations and members of Donald Trump's campaign. We don't have complete information on this. Trump did not clarify what he meant. Some possibilities:

  • CNN said that there was an active warrant during and after the election on Paul Manafort. This included recording some of his phone calls. We do not know if any of those phone calls involved Trump or members of the campaign other than Manafort.

  • Former FBI informant Carter Page was also subject to surveillance, including the recording of phone calls. Page was trying to get a job as a foreign policy advisor with the Trump campaign, possibly seeking a job in the Trump administration. It is unclear if any recorded phone calls involved Trump or other members of the campaign.

  • The Daily Beast notes that Michael Flynn was recorded on multiple phone calls with foreigners who were under surveillance. It is unclear if additional surveillance was done directly on Flynn. The nature of the original surveillance was such that the identities of any US citizens should have been left out of the transcripts until a warrant was obtained. If any additional surveillance was done on Flynn, we do not know if any phone calls involved Trump or other members of the campaign.

While we don't know if these calls involve Trump or the campaign, it is entirely possible that Trump knew.

Some people seem to be making a distinction between illicit wiretapping performed by illegally adding an electronic device to the phone and legally-sanctioned surveillance with the assistance of the phone company. There is no evidence of the former. However, it is not true to say that evidence of the latter would be meaningless. It is entirely possible for a government to abuse its legal powers of surveillance for partisan purposes.

Trump doesn't seem to particularly care about such fine distinctions. His public statements suggest it was wrong for his political opponents to get information from phone calls that he and his staff were making during the campaign. He doesn't seem to care about how that information was obtained.

Of great suspicion is the ongoing attempt to deny that anything happened.

  1. There was no wiretapping. OK, for some definition of wiretapping, that's true. But for a broader definition, it isn't. If "wiretapping" means any way of obtaining the audio of a phone conversation, then they certainly obtained such audio.

  2. Any surveillance was legal. Possibly true. It is also perfectly legal to convict an innocent person of wrongdoing. That doesn't make it right. We have systems to try to avoid this and to fix it when it happens.

  3. If Trump and his campaign had not been speaking to these people, then they wouldn't have been surveilled. Possibly true. But a counter to this is what information about similar conversations involving the Hillary Clinton campaign was supplied to partisans opposed to her? That has not been explored.

  4. Why wasn't Trump informed during the campaign of the issues with Manafort, Page, and George Papadopoulos?

It seems like it should be possible to find people in the FBI who would not leak to partisans (particularly including political appointees) and still would have investigated any allegations thoroughly. Why weren't such people put on these investigations and partisans like Peter Strzok moved to other things? Or at least separated from the raw information until after the election?

If there was nothing to this story, then why the ever shifting excuses? Why not just simply say in the beginning that there was perfectly normal surveillance occurring? They could then explain how they avoid the problematic things. For example, what kept information from the surveillance that involved campaign secrets from leaking to partisans in the administration and thence to Clinton's campaign?

Of course, since such information was leaking, perhaps the problem is that any system they had in place was either inadequate or not enforced. And that's the real scandal. That supposedly confidential information from ongoing FBI investigations was going to political partisans who were then sharing it with people opposed to those being investigated. That seems wrong.

  • 1
    "Some people seem to be making a distinction between [...]": Do you have an example? I'm honestly not aware of any. "it was wrong for his political opponents to get information from phone calls": A source to show that the FBI was Trumps political opponent - or that it was acting on orders of his political opponent - would be good. Otherwise, that part sounds like an unsourced conspiracy theory.
    – tim
    Jun 8, 2018 at 20:48
  • 2
    "what information about similar conversations involving the Hillary Clinton campaign was supplied to partisans opposed to her?": Do you mean to imply that the FBI supplied opponents of the Trump campaign with possibly intercepted information? Can you add a link for this? But in general, I'm not sure how any of this directly relates to Trumps tweet that his phone was tapped (ie that he was surveilled).
    – tim
    Jun 8, 2018 at 20:48
  • @tim Susan Rice. Note: I am not claiming that this establishes that she used the information improperly, merely that it is natural to be suspicious that she had it at all. Same thing with Yates and Clapper.
    – Brythan
    Jun 8, 2018 at 20:53
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    Regarding #3: that's literally the definition of whataboutism, and not a "counter" at all. Regarding #4, why didn't the FBI warn Trump about Russia? It did. Not only that, the Trump campaign failed to disclose their contacts with the Russians (trying to infiltrate the campaign) up to that point. So your question is akin to "why didn't the FBI let the mob boss know that they were watching his underlings?"
    – C. Helling
    Jun 8, 2018 at 23:09

Trump believes he was spied on

Wiretapping is an old term that means listening in on an unsuspecting target's communications. It is colloquially used to imply surveillance on a person, usually by the NSA or FBI.

Only Trump knows why he chose the word wiretap rather than surveillance but I would guess it was to tie more closely to the Nixon Watergate scandal where Nixon actually did wiretap opponents.

The Republican written memo summarized how the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant system was abused in order to allow surveillance of people within Trump's campaign.

There was also an FBI informant within the Trump campaign:

The Intercept

Washington Post

New York Times

He probably should not have used the word wiretap because that is being attacked literally rather than acknowledging that improper surveillance of his campaign occurred.

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    – Philipp
    Jun 9, 2018 at 9:57

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