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What is ‘Obamagate’, the theory that Donald Trump is peddling

"Obamagate" rightly takes its reference from Watergate, decidedly the biggest political scandal that ended Richard Nixon's presidency in 1974.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: May 21, 2020 8:10:17 pm
Barack Obama, Donald Trump offer dueling final pitches to midterm voters ahead of US elections US President Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama.

Over the last few weeks, US President Donald Trump has proactively peddled conspiracy theories about former president Barack Obama with #Obamagate that some say is being designed to ramp up support for Trump’s conservative base. The President has also, in equal measure, attempted to portray presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in harsh light to potentially distract from the barrage of bad news from both the health and economic front due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 90,000 Americans have died from the virus, and more than 40 million have claimed unemployment.

Biden, on his part, warned that those “tasked with enforcing the law are abusing their powers,” indirectly criticising the Trump administration a day after he declined to respond to the President’s attacks directly.

On May 10, Trump had tweeted 126 times, some in all caps, about ‘OBAMAGATE’ without giving any evidence to support his claims. Despite the fact that over 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims over the last few months due to pandemic-induced lockdown, Trump has fired many shots at Obama accusing him of conspiracy to topple his early presidency. Over the years, these accusations came to be labelled by Trump and his supporters as Obamagate.

Last week, when Trump was asked by a reporter his reason behind accusing Obama, the President was quoted as saying by The Atlantic as saying, “It’s been going on for a very long time … You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.”

Later on May 15, he announced that Obamagate is the “greatest political scandal in the history of the US”.

Again, no elaboration.

Trump’s accusations against Obama have frequently bordered on conspiracy and not facts, which are not the same as his differences with his predecessor on health care policies and US’ role in the world order.

Currently, his focus seems to be on the decisions that Obama, Biden, and their national security advisers made during the last days of their administration as they viewed intelligence reports about Michael Flynn. Flynn had a relatively short tenure as Donald Trump’s national security adviser before he was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

So, what is Obamagate that Trump is aggressively pushing? 

us coronavirus, barack obama on coronavirus, obama slams trump coronavirus, obama trump, US coronavirus Obama also reacted to the Justice Department dropping its criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, saying he worried that the “basic understanding of rule of law is at risk”.

“Obamagate” rightly takes its reference from Watergate, decidedly the biggest political scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1974.

The controversy had its origins in 2017, when Donald Trump had accused Obama of wire-tapping his political campaign in 2016. Over the years, the claims have stayed with Trump supporters. But very recently, the Justice Department dropped the case against Flynn and this seems to have given Trump another reason to complain about Flynn’s treatment by FBI investigators.

Trump has broadly dubbed the allegations as Obamagate where he has pointed to the legal case of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and suggested that the “unmasking” of Flynn’s name as part of legal US surveillance of foreign targets was criminal.

As per the Associated Press, the “unmasking” of people in surveillance reports is a routine, legal activity in government. In 2019, the Donald Trump administration made 10,012 such requests. But they don’t often become public, and in the Flynn case, Trump supporters point to it as evidence that Obama loyalists were out to undermine Trump from the start.

To many, the Obamagate seems to be Trump’s strategy to open up a new front against his political rivals to shore up support for his presidency and boost his reelection bid in the November elections. The President has branded the whole issue as Obamagate despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing against the former president.

Then, over this weekend, Trump’s two sons appeared to spread baseless, online conspiracy theories suggesting other criminal activity by Biden. When Biden was asked by reporters on the online posts, he told AP, “People know me. The good news is the bad news. They know me. They know my faults, they know my talents,” Biden said.

He went on to add: “It’s hard to lay on me some of the things that are just totally out of sync with anything in my whole life that anyone has ever said about me.”

The latest comments by Biden come amid escalating rhetoric from Trump and his allies pushing conspiracy theories and alleging improper behaviour during the Obama administration.

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