President Donald Trump lit the political world afire with his tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower Saturday morning. In response, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that he would get to the bottom of the accusations, but said that if the wiretapping were made legally, it would be the biggest scandal since Watergate — for Trump, not for Obama.
He made the comments to a raucous crowd of constituents and anti-GOP protesters at his town hall event Saturday.
"So apparently this morning President Trump tweeted out," Graham announced, "that he believes President Obama ordered wiretapping of his campaign, Trump Tower, and that would be, so I don't know what happened, but I can only give you a summary of the tweet."
The audience mocked and jeered at the suggestion.
"The president of the United States is claiming that the former president of the United States ordered wiretapping of his campaign last year. I don't know if it's true or not but if it is true, illegally, it would be the biggest political scandal since Watergate," the senator said.
The anti-Trump elements of the crowd yelled about Russia, apparently referring to allegations of Russian connections to the Trump campaign.
"The other side of the story," Graham attempted to continue, while being interrupted, "just be quiet, be quiet for a second. If the former president of the United States was able to obtain a warrant lawfully, to monitor Trump's campaign for violating law, that would be the biggest scandal since Watergate."
The crowd was much more approving of this suggestion:
So here's the deal, as we get ready to talk to each other, I'm very worried. I'm very worried that our president is suggesting that the former president has done something illegally. I would be very worried, if in fact, the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity with foreign governments.
"It's my job," Graham offered, "as a United States Senator, to get to the bottom of this. I promise you I'll do that."
The promise garnered much applause from the audience, whose loudest members appeared to be mostly anti-Trump.
“I’m very worried…”
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks on Trump accusing Obama of illegal wiretapping pic.twitter.com/tP05KgXfke
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 4, 2017
Sen. Graham isn't the only one to note that if Trump's accusation is true and a FISA court legally granted the wiretap, that means there is some evidence of malfeasance upon which that determination was made. That is the "biggest scandal since Watergate" that he is referring to.
National Review's Andrew McCarthy explained the requirements for a FISA wiretap in January in relation to these accusations:
A traditional wiretap requires evidence amounting to probable cause of commission of a crime. A FISA wiretap requires no showing of a crime, just evidence amounting to probable cause that the target of the wiretap is an agent of a foreign power. (A foreign power can be another country or a foreign terrorist organization.)
The accusation from Trump was met with mockery from the left, and eventually denials from Obama allies and his spokesperson. Some speculated that this was an attempt by the president to distract from Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusal and Vice President Mike Pence's private email fiasco.