If President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is an indication of where his head is at, his thoughts on Thursday morning were far from the 84,000 Americans that have died from COVID-19.
The president’s morning obsessions included Barack Obama, a government whistleblower, his 22-0 record on congressional endorsements, and unspecified “good numbers” coming out of states that have begun to wind back pandemic-related shutdowns.
In a tweet tagging Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, Trump called for former President Obama to be brought before Congress to testify about unspecified crimes that Trump thinks constitutes the biggest scandal in history.
“If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama,” he wrote. “He knew EVERYTHING. Do it @LindseyGrahamSC, just do it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more talk!”
Trump has been loudly complaining about “OBAMAGATE!” in recent days, first amplifying the allegations in a stream of 120 tweets and retweets on May 10. But he has conveniently declined to say what crimes Obama is supposed to have committed.
Asked by a Washington Post journalist this week, Trump responded: “Obamagate. 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.”
When pressed to say what offense was committed, 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.”
Trump and his allies have long claimed, without evidence, that the investigation into Russian election meddling, started by the FBI in 2017, was a hit job by the outgoing Obama administration.
Since the Department of Justice sensationally moved to drop its case against Trump’s one-time National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials, Trump’s “Obamagate” conspiracy theories have reached fever pitch.
Richard Grenell, Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, released a declassified list on Tuesday of Obama administration officials who sought to “unmask” Flynn—a fairly common practice by senior officials who want to know the names of people under government surveillance. (Under privacy laws and intelligence regulations, the names of Americans picked up on foreign wire taps are concealed unless officials ask that they be unmasked.)
Trump and his supporters claimed the list shared by Grenell, which included Trump’s likely 2020 opponent Joe Biden, was more proof that the Obama administration sought to sabotage the incoming Trump administration.
Graham, whose panel is investigating the origins of the Russia probe, is unlikely to take up Trump’s call to bring Obama before Congress.
“I don’t think now’s the time for me to do that. I don’t know if that’s even possible,” he told Politico on Thursday, reiterating his comments from earlier in the week that he was not anticipating calling Obama. “I understand President Trump’s frustration, but be careful what you wish for,” he added.
Attorney General William Barr also launched a separate investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, but the prosecutor he put in charge has not interviewed at least five key potential witnesses or targets, multiple sources told The Daily Beast.
While Trump’s call for Obama to participate in a quasi-show trial seems outlandish, some presidents and former presidents have been called to testify before Congress on rare occasions.
After tweeting about “OBAMAGATE!” on Thursday, Trump pivoted to trashing the reputation of Rick Bright, a government scientist-turned-whistleblower who is testifying before Congress on Thursday. Bright claims he was ousted from his job overseeing coronavirus vaccine research after questioning the efficacy of an anti-malarial drug favored by the president.
By Wednesday, at least 84,239 Americans had died of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.