Obama administration accused of spying on Trump 2016 campaign

On day charges against former security adviser dropped, US president slates predecessor

Former US president Barack Obama was the subject of stinging criticism from a bullish Donal Trump. File photograph: Reuters

Former US president Barack Obama was the subject of stinging criticism from a bullish Donal Trump. File photograph: Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump accused the Obama administration of spying on his 2016 election campaign as he welcomed a court ruling ordering the dismissal of a case against his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

In a win for the Trump administration a federal appeals court ruled that the case against Mr Flynn should be dropped. The court said that a trial judge overseeing the case had overstepped his mandate by re-examining attorney general Bill Barr’s decision to drop the prosecution last month. The Department of Justice’s original announcement that it was dropping the case against Mr Flynn – who pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI – was a highly unusual move and Judge Emmet Sullivan had refused to close the case.

But the ruling means the initial Justice Department decision to dismiss the case against Mr Flynn is most likely to stand, though Judge Sullivan could ask for a rehearing.

Mr Trump welcomed the ruling and said Mr Flynn had been exonerated. “I’m very happy about Gen Flynn. He was treated horribly,” he said as he met with Polish president Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office. “What happened to Gen Flynn should never happen again . . . he was treated horribly by a group of very bad people.”

Claiming that the Obama administration had spied on an election campaign, he said this had “never happened before in the history of our country . . . If that was the other way round people would be in jail for 50 years already.”

The case of Mr Flynn – who was Mr Trump’s first national security adviser before he was fired for lying to vice-president Mike Pence over his contacts with the Russian ambassador – has become a cause célèbre for Trump supporters who believe he was illegally put under surveillance by the FBI in the run-up to the 2016 election.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the ruling was a victory for justice and truth.

“All Americans are entitled to equal justice under the law and due process,” she said. “No American should ever be unjustly targeted by their government.”

A federal appeals court has ruled that the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn should be dropped. File photograph: EPA
A federal appeals court has ruled that the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn should be dropped. File photograph: EPA

Nonetheless, the Mr Barr’s conduct continued to attract scrutiny as two former prosecutors gave testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

In damning testimony former deputy-attorney general Don Ohmer was sharply critical of Mr Barr.

“I believe that William Barr poses the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law and to public trust in it,” he said. “That is because he does not believe in its core principle – that no person is above the law. Instead since taking office he has worked to advance his lifelong conviction that the president [has] virtually autocratic powers that includes immunity from all checks and balances.”

‘Exemplary record and career’

But Republicans accused the Democrat-controlled committee of running a politically motivated hearing.

Ohio Republican Steve Chabot accused Democrats of wanting “to smear this president and his administration”.

Mr Barr had been merely acting within the scope of his duties, he said, pointing to “an exemplary record and career. He is clearing up the mess of the previous administration and restoring the dignity of the Department of Justice.”

Mr Barr has come under fire in recent days for his decision to dismiss the attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was investigating Trump allies. He has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee in late July.

Meanwhile, hopes of federal reform of the police system have faded after Democrats in the Senate failed to support a package drawn up by Republicans. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said the Bill was “deeply flawed”.