‘So absurd’: Obama mocks Trump’s theory
Former US president Barack Obama has hit back at Donald Trump's repeated calls for him to be indicted and prosecuted, dismissing the President's theories as "absurd".
Since he left Walter Reed Medical Centre earlier this month, Mr Trump has been more fixated than usual on his belief that Mr Obama directed US intelligence agencies to illegally "spy" on his presidential campaign in 2016.
"Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in the history of our country, then we're going to get little satisfaction unless I win," he said.
"And we'll just have to go, because I won't forget it."
Mr Trump has also been tweeting about the subject, often in all caps.
Wow!!! NOW DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, THE BIGGEST OF ALL POLITICAL SCANDALS (IN HISTORY)!!! BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN - GOT CAUGHT!!! https://t.co/hf7zjqZYQ4— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
It was never going to be a hostile interview, so keep that in mind as we run through the questions they asked Mr Obama, along with his responses.
"President Trump keeps tweeting that the Attorney-General should indict you or indict vice president Biden for spying on his campaign," Vietor said.
"The allegation is absurd. It's false. It's seemingly part of just his general rage at any discussion of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. It's remarkable to me how used to this kind of language (Washington) D.C. has become.
"Is it weird for you when he tweets that you should be indicted?"
"Well look, as you said, this is something that even his fellow Republicans tend to just pretend doesn't happen," Mr Obama said of Mr Trump's comments.
"They kind of dodge reporters when they're asked about it. The allegations are so absurd that even Republican-controlled committees looking into it have dismissed them. And you know, Attorney-General (William) Barr has dismissed them."
Multiple investigations, conducted by both major parties in Congress and Mr Trump's own Justice Department, have found no evidence that Mr Obama was involved in initiating the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, which targeted four people with ties to the 2016 Trump campaign.
"We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decision to open Crossfire Hurricane," the Justice Department Inspector-General said in his report, using the FBI operation's code name.
Those investigations also found no evidence that Mr Obama interfered in the operation after it started.
Mr Barr is currently overseeing another investigation into the origins of the FBI's probe. It is being conducted by John Durham, the former US attorney for Connecticut, who is unlikely to deliver his findings before the November election.
Back in May, Mr Barr said he did not expect Mr Durham's work to "lead to a criminal investigation" of either Mr Obama or Mr Biden.
"Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others," he said.
"Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is necessarily a federal crime."
However the Attorney-General remains sympathetic to Mr Trump's view that his campaign was treated unfairly in 2016.
Anyway, back to Mr Obama's interview.
"This is an example, I think, of a larger problem. Well, two larger problems, which don't get as much attention, understandably, when you've got high unemployment and a pandemic raging," he continued.
"But one of the central foundation stones of democracy is the idea that you do not allow the politicisation of the criminal justice system, the intelligence system, the military. That is stuff that you keep out of politics, because it's too dangerous.
"You can't have a democracy in which political opponents are subject to this kind of inflammatory language.
"Now, he did the same thing with Hillary and the 'lock her up' theme. And so I'm not surprised by it, that it continues. I'm disappointed that Republicans who know better have not checked him on this.
"And I think one very important question after the election, even if it goes well for Joe Biden, is whether you start seeing the Republican Party restore some sense of, 'Here are the norms that we can't breach.' Because he's breached all of them, and they have not said to him, 'This is too far.'"
The second "larger problem", according to Mr Obama, was "misinformation" in the news media and on social media.
"That is a problem that is going to outlast Trump. Trump is a symptom of it and an accelerant to it. But he did not create it," he said.
"It has gotten turbocharged because of social media, and because the head of our government has resorted to it.
"But, you know, when you look at insane conspiracy theories like QAnon seeping into the mainstream of the Republican Party, what that tells you is that there are no more guardrails within that media ecosystem."
The QAnon conspiracy theory involves, among other outlandish things, a belief that Mr Trump is secretly fighting a cabal of child sex predators, including prominent Democrats.
Whether it has infiltrated the mainstream of the Republican Party, as Mr Obama says, is a matter of opinion. Several of the party's congressional candidates are believers in the theory, but few of them are expected to actually win seats.
Mr Trump himself has been reluctant to condemn QAnon. Asked about the group during a White House media briefing in August, he instead praised its followers.
"Well I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much. Which I appreciate," the President said.
"But I don't know much about the movement. I have heard that it is gaining in popularity, and from what I hear, these are people that - when they watch the streets of Portland … these are people that don't like what's going on in places like Portland, in places like Chicago, and New York, and other cities.
"And I've heard these are people that love our country. And they just don't like seeing it. So I don't know, really, anything about it, other than they do supposedly like me."
Mr Obama said misinformation was not an issue of progressive versus conservative politics.
"This is really a genuine American society issue is how do we re-establish some baselines of truth, that at least the vast majority of people can agree to?" he said.
"And then we could have a whole bunch of debates about - all right, yeah, climate change is real. But, you know, Republicans think we just have to adapt because we can't give up, you know, our cars. And progressives say, no, we should use these alternative technologies.
"We can have that debate. I have some pretty strong views about it. But if you say climate change is a hoax, then there's nothing we can do.
"The same is true with COVID. All right, you know, if you say, 'Yes, COVID is a genuine, really big problem. A serious disease, here's the science, we can agree to that.' And then, you know, you have a country like Sweden that decides. 'Well, we think we're going to try to approach this through herd immunity.'
"At least there's some coherence to their argument. I disagree with it. I don't think it is proven out. But we're within the same reality in our debates.
"We're gonna have to find ways to do that. I don't have a quick answer for that, because part of what happens within, when you get these echo chambers, is they become impenetrable.
"Any bit of information that contradicts the worldview and the conspiracies within it or the conspiracy theories within it, it gets rejected as part of a conspiracy and part of the liberal plot."
Originally published as 'So absurd': Obama mocks Trump's theory