President Donald Trump, in a CBS News interview that aired Monday morning, abruptly ended the conversation after declining to discuss the thought process behind his unfounded allegation that his predecessor had wiretapped Trump Tower.
Trump said of former President Barack Obama: “Well, he was very nice to me, but after that, we’ve had some difficulties. So it doesn’t matter. You know, words are less important to me than deeds . . . and everybody saw what happened with surveillance.”
Trump in a flurry of tweets in early March said he had learned Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower last year, calling the prospect McCarthyism and labeling Obama a “bad (or sick) man.” He has provided no proof and Obama’s team has refuted the claim as false.
The congressional intelligence committees and the FBI have yet to find evidence to support Trump’s accusation.
CBS’ chief White House correspondent John Dickerson asked Trump whether he stood by his claim.
“I don’t stand by anything,” the president responded. “You can take it the way you want. I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it. And frankly it should be discussed. I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. ... And we should find out what the hell is going on.”
The president added, “You don’t have to ask me. ... Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.”
Reminded that his opinion is important because he is the president, Trump politely but curtly ended the interview.
“OK, it’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said.
Trump and the White House had tried to broaden the accusation to mean general surveillance by the prior administration, noting Trump’s use of quote marks in his tweets.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) did reveal that he learned in late March, through an unnamed source he met on White House grounds, that the Trump transition team communities had been picked up incidentally in routine U.S. spy surveillance. Nunes has since recused himself from probes involving Trump and Russian meddling in the election.
In the first section of the wide-ranging CBS interview, which aired Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Trump guaranteed that pre-existing conditions would be covered in his plan for replacing Obamacare, and called North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un a “very smart cookie” while saying he hopes Kim doesn’t develop nuclear weapons.