In Depth

Why everybody’s talking about Obamagate

Donald Trump accuses predecessor of unspecified crimes that make Watergate ‘look small time’

Relations between Barack Obama and Donald Trump have reached a new low after the current US president accused his predecessor of unspecified crimes in a so-called “Obamagate” scandal.

Trump spent much of Sunday “diving into the right-wing fever swamps and unleashing a barrage of tweets and retweets” attacking Obama, The Guardian says.

One of those tweets read simply “OBAMAGATE!” - referencing the “gate” suffix inspired by the Watergate scandal that brought down former US president Richard Nixon.

News and entertainment site Deadline reported yesterday that Trump “has been on a Twitter tear the past 48 hours – more than 100 tweets or retweets on Sunday, 25 and counting on Monday”. 

The US leader repeatedly used the hashtag “Obamagate”, which he said would make the Watergate scandal “look small time”.

When asked later by White House reporters about the claims, he replied: “It’s been going on for a long time. It’s been going on from before I even got elected. And it’s a disgrace that it happened.”

Pushed by a Washington Post reporter to name Obama’s alleged offences, Trump said: “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”

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The president went on the offensive after Yahoo! News revealed a leaked recording in which Obama reportedly said the “rule of law is at risk”, following the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against Trump’s former aide Michael Flynn.

Flynn was fired from his role as as national security adviser in early 2017 for lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Obama’s alleged comments on the matter appear to have riled the president, who tweeted that his Democrat nemesis had committed “the biggest political crime in American history, by far!” 

But his suggestion that the Obama should be investigated “met a unanimous response from Senate Republicans: No thanks”, says Politico.

Some analysts have suggested Trump’s tweets may also have been a bid to distract from his handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, which has claimed more than 80,000 lives and triggered a rise in unemployment to levels last seen during the Great Depression.

Attacks on Obama always go down well with Trump’s supporters, according to Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who says: “Nothing energises Trump’s base more than this, because they feel that they were wronged.” 

The president’s tweets are also “indicative of a long-standing obsession”, says The Guardian. “Trump effectively began his political career by pushing the ‘birther’ conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the US and therefore should not be eligible for the presidency.”

And he has dedicated much of his time at the White House to trying to reverse Obama’s legacy, “attempting to kill the Affordable Care Act, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate accords, and slashing environmental and other regulations”, the newspaper adds.

But some Democrats are fighting back against Trump’s latest attack with an online assault of their own. 

Supporters of Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee to take on Trump in this year’s scheduled presidential election, are using the hashtag “Trumpgate” in links to online campaign ads attacking the president for his response to the Covid-19 crisis.

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