Donald Trump has accused former president Barack Obama and his “people” of organizing the demonstrations that have roiled city streets, airports and town halls during the first weeks of his presidency.
In an interview with Fox and Friends, which aired on Tuesday morning in the US, the president also suggested Obama and his allies were behind the leaks of classified information from the White House to the press.
There is no evidence that the former president has had any hand in either activity.
Trump was asked by the Fox interviewer whether he believed Obama was involved in organizing protests, including the recent spate of raucous Republican town hall meetings, and “if he is, is that a violation of the so-called unsaid president’s code?”
“No, I think he is behind it. I also think it’s just politics. That’s just the way it is,” Trump said in the pre-taped interview, a portion of which was released on Monday night.
Trump continued: “You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes … I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it.”
Republicans and rightwing media outlets have accused the former president of directing the demonstrations though a group called Organizing for Action (OFA), a progressive group that grew out of Obama’s presidential campaigns. It is chaired by Jim Messina, who was Obama’s deputy chief of staff during his first term and his campaign manager during the 2012 election.
As a nonprofit, the group cannot advocate for a political candidate, though its agenda aligns closely with the Democratic party and Obama’s key policy positions. There is no evidence the former president is personally involved with the group.
Last week, Republicans faced angry constituents in town halls and district offices around the country. The action follows protests that erupted at airports in response to the Trump administration’s travel ban, which closed the US borders to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
In the interview with Fox, Trump accused Obama and his allies of possible involvement in the leaks of information from the White House.
“Some of the leaks possibly come from that group,” Trump said in the interview.
“You know, some of the leaks – which are really very serious leaks because they’re very bad in terms of national security – but I also understand that’s politics and it will probably continue.”
It is extremely rare for a former president to criticize his successor while in office.
Last month, Obama spoke out against Trump’s travel ban. In a statement, a spokesman said Obama was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country” and that the former president “fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion”.
In the Fox interview, Trump further disparaged Obama’s immigration policy, saying the former president had “deported a lot of people”, in contrast to his own administration’s stepped-up deportation measures, which were focusing on “a very bad group”.
Earlier this month, in Texas, a woman was arrested by immigration officials at a courthouse where she was seeking protection from domestic violence. In a separate case, a Salvadoran woman fighting deportation was removed by immigration officials from a Texas hospital where she was being treated for a brain tumor and returned to a detention centre.
In response to a question about whether there was a method behind his recent spate of Twitter attacks, Trump reiterated his online criticism of John McCain. The senator had been critical of the Trump administration’s operation in Yemen last month, which resulted in the death of a US Navy Seal.
“I felt badly when a young man dies and John McCain said it was a bad mission … I thought it was inappropriate that he goes to foreign soil and he criticizes our government,” Trump said on Fox, cautioning the Arizona senator to “be careful”.
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