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Trump responded to Obama’s criticism at the DNC by pushing a baseless conspiracy theory

Obama offered rare criticism of Trump and the president resorted to pushing the baseless “Obamagate” conspiracy theory in response.

President-elect Donald Trump, left, and President Barack Obama arrive for Trump’s inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.
J. Scott Applewhite (Pool) AP/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

President Donald Trump hit some familiar notes on Twitter while responding to former President Barack Obama’s speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention Wednesday night. Trump again repeated the false accusation that the former president spied on his 2016 campaign and got caught. And he needled Obama for waiting until April, when the primary was essentially over, to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.

The tweets came after Obama offered his sharpest criticism of Trump’s presidency to date, describing him as unfit for office.

“I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care,” Obama said. “But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

Trump, in turn, fired off a few tweets in all caps and then shared a video taken at one of his White House press conference appearances explaining that he wouldn’t have been elected in the first place if Obama and Biden hadn’t done “such a bad job.”

Trump’s claim that Obama spied on the 2016 Trump campaign is one portion of a baseless conspiracy theory called Obamagate, which claims that “deep state” government officials left over from the Obama era have been attempting to undermine the Trump administration since before the president took office. The assertion was quickly refuted by the FBI and NSA in 2017; however, Trump has refused to accept this, and has repeated his false claim throughout his first term.

Trump also took aim at Obama’s choice to remain above the fray during the Democratic primary — while Obama met with and gave advice to all campaigns that asked for it, he did not endorse anyone, including his former vice president, until Joe Biden had all but clinched the nomination.

Trump also retweeted several posts from his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who took Obama’s record to task for “slow economic growth” and a “rogue Department of Justice.” Trump has presided over an economy in collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic, and his Justice Department has routinely faced accusations of improper fealty to the president over the law.

The tweets from Trump really are nothing new. Trump is a loud — and frequent — critic of Obama and his presidency, beginning his criticism of his predecessor even before he joined 2016’s Republican primary. Ahead of his political career, Trump was perhaps the loudest purveyor of the racist birther conspiracy theory that the former president was not born in the United States. That criticism — as well as complaints about the military, family separation, and even the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus, which did not exist when Obama was president — has continued throughout Trump’s first term, despite Obama being out of office now for over three and a half years.

Obama, however, has largely stayed away from commenting on Trump or his record, focusing instead on encouraging people to vote. Wednesday night’s speech was a departure for him, breaking an unwritten rule that former presidents shouldn’t directly criticize sitting presidents.

But Obama — like the rest of the country — watched from a distance while Trump reworked the government to benefit himself and his friends, and then failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic collapse. He obviously felt a need to not hold back, making the case that if Trump is reelected, there will be “no democracy at all.”

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