US President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of “treason” without evidence on Monday, again attempting to recast an investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia as an effort by Obama to spy on him.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump levied specific charges against his predecessor for the first time. There is no evidence that the Obama White House was involved in an FBI investigation into Trump aides’ ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, which later grew into special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
“Treason. It’s treason,” Trump told CBN’s David Brody. “Look, when I came out a long time ago, I said they’ve been spying on my campaign, I said they’ve been taping...”
“Turns out I was right,” the president continued. “Let’s see what happens to them now.”
Trump said later in the CBN interview that if similar crimes had been committed “100 years ago, or 50 years ago, they would have been executed.”
“We’re in a different time. You understand what I mean by that. They spied on the opposing party’s campaign, and we caught them,” he said. “I just hope I get tremendous evangelical Christian support.”
An independent report by the Justice Department found that, at the end of last year, the FBI’s initial investigation was opened properly and was acted upon without political bias, undercutting the Trump administration’s claims that it was a conspiracy. The report did find that the probe was rushed and had errors in how the agency handled some documents.
But, despite those findings, Trump has continued to cast blame on the Obama administration even as his first four-year term comes to its conclusion. This year, the president has routinely blasted his predecessor for a bevy of unspecified crimes he’s labeled “Obamagate,” although it’s unclear what impropriety he’s referencing other than using a catchphrase to try to score political points.
Trump had until Monday resisted accusing Obama of an actual crime. When asked about his accusations by a Washington Post reporter last month, the president shot back: “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”
“It’s been going on for a long time,” Trump added then.
Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation more than a year ago amid ongoing demands from the White House.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told senators at the time. “I think spying did occur.”
However, last month Barr said that neither Obama nor former Vice President Joe Biden were under scrutiny in Durham’s investigation.
“I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” the attorney general said. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
Obama has largely avoided public bickering with Trump. Shortly after the president shared a series of “Obamagate” missives on Twitter, Obama offered a terse reply.