Trump demands Obama testimony in probe of Russia investigation

US Senators to Trump: Not so fast, 'be careful what you wish for'.

    United States President-elect Donald Trump meets with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC in November 2016 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
    United States President-elect Donald Trump meets with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC in November 2016 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

    President Donald Trump on Thursday called on his allies in the United States Senate to call former President Barack Obama to testify in a probe into the origins of the Russia investigation, a demand that was answered with a warning from those same allies: "Be careful what you wish for."

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and one of Trump's most loyal allies in the US Congress, said on Thursday that his committee is opening a wide-ranging investigation into the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but Graham downplayed the idea of calling Obama to testify before the committee.

    "I am greatly concerned about the precedent that would be set by calling a former president for oversight,″ Graham said. "No president is above the law. However, the presidency has executive privilege claims against other branches of government.″

    "I understand President Trump's frustration, but be careful what you wish for," he warned the president in an interview with Politico. "Just be careful what you wish for."

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    Trump and his Republican allies have in recent days been pushing to reframe the Russia investigation as a "deep state" plot to sabotage his administration, setting the stage for a fresh onslaught of attacks on past and present Democratic officials and law enforcement leaders. Trump has taken to calling the investigation "the greatest political crime in the history of our country".

    In an interview with Fox Business aired on Thursday, he moved further to lay the blame on his predecessor and his would-be replacement, current presidential candidate Joe Biden. "The president knew everything," Trump said. "President Obama and Vice President Biden, they knew everything."

    Nearly eight years after he was last on the ballot, Obama is quickly emerging as a central figure in the 2020 presidential election.

    Democrats are eagerly embracing him as a political wingman for Biden, who spent two terms by his side as vice president. Obama remains the party's most popular figure, particularly with African-American voters and younger Democrats, and Biden's presidential campaign is planning for him to have a highly visible role in the months to come.

    For Trump, that means an opportunity to focus the spotlight on one of his favourite political foils by aggressively pushing conspiracy theories about Obama designed to fire up the president's conservative base, taint Biden by association and distract from the glut of grim health and economic news from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by Obama, Biden or other administration officials, Trump is eagerly pushing the notion of an unspecified crime, branding it "Obamagate". He's being backed up by Republican allies in the US Congress and his supporters in conservative media circles.

    Biden's campaign has drawn a direct connection between the president's attacks on Obama and the twin crises battering his administration, a connection the White House has strenuously denied.

    "It's no surprise that the president is erratically lashing out at President Obama, desperate to distract from his own failures as commander in chief that have cost thousands of Americans their lives during this crisis," TJ Ducklo, a Biden campaign spokesman, told the Associated Press news agency.

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    Graham's Judiciary Committee will delve into the Department of Justice's decision to dismiss its prosecution of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as well as actions by the Obama administration to view Flynn's name in intelligence reports during the Russia probe, Graham said.

    "We must determine if these requests were legitimate," Graham said, referring to requests by top Obama administration officials to "unmask" Flynn's name. The requests are common, including during the Trump administration, which has made thousands of "unmasking" requests.

    Both Trump and Obama are welcome to come before the committee during the course of the investigation "and share their concerns about each other,'' Graham said. "If nothing else it would make for great television. However, I have great doubts about whether it would be wise for the country."

    SOURCE: News agencies