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WIRETAP: Former U.S. intelligence chief rejects Trump accusation.


The former top
U.S. intelligence official rejected President Donald Trump’s accusation
that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped him even as the White
House on Sunday urged Congress to investigate Trump’s allegation.

The
New York Times reported on Sunday that FBI Director James Comey asked
the Justice Department this weekend to reject Trump’s wiretapping claim
because it was false and must be corrected, but the department had not
done so. The report cited senior U.S. officials.
The
White House asked Congress, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans,
to examine whether the Obama administration abused its investigative
authority during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, as part of an
ongoing congressional probe into Russia’s influence on the election.

Trump
on Saturday alleged, without offering supporting evidence, that Obama
ordered a wiretap of the phones at Trump’s campaign headquarters in
Trump Tower in New York.
“There was
no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the
time, or as a candidate or against his campaign,” former Director of
National Intelligence James Clapper, who left his post at the end of
Obama’s term in office in January, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Under
U.S. law, a federal court would have to have found probable cause that
the target of the surveillance is an “agent of a foreign power” in order
to approve a warrant authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump
Tower.

Asked whether there was such a court order, Clapper said, “I can deny it.”
Democrats
accused Trump of trying to distract from the rising controversy about
possible ties to Russia. His administration has come under pressure from
FBI and congressional investigations into contacts between members of
his campaign team and Russian officials.
Attorney
General Jeff Sessions bowed out last week of any probe into alleged
Russian meddling in the 2016 election after it emerged he met last year
with Russia’s ambassador while serving as a Trump campaign advisor.
Sessions maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose the
meetings.

White House spokesman
Sean Spicer said Trump and administration officials would have no
further comment on the issue until Congress has completed its probe,
potentially heading off attempts to get Trump to explain his
accusations.

“Reports concerning potentially politically
motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very
troubling,” Spicer said in a statement.
U.S.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican head of the House of
Representatives Intelligence Committee examining possible links between
Russia and Trump’s campaign, said in a statement that any possible
surveillance on campaign officials would be part of the probe.

Trump
made the wiretapping accusation in a series of early morning tweets on
Saturday amid expanding scrutiny of his campaign’s ties to Russia. An
Obama spokesman denied the charge, saying it was “a cardinal rule” that
no White House official interfered with independent Justice Department
investigations.
The White House offered no evidence on Sunday to back up Trump’s accusation and did not say it was true.

Spokeswoman
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Trump has
“made very clear what he believes, and he’s asking that we get down to
the bottom of this. Let’s get the truth here.”

‘EARLY STAGES OF INVESTIGATION’

Trump, who is spending the
weekend at his Florida resort, said in his tweets on Saturday that the
alleged wiretapping took place in his Trump Tower office and apartment
building in New York, but there was “nothing found.”
Senate
Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Trump had either made a
false accusation, or a judge had found probable cause to authorize a
wiretap.
“Either way, the
president’s in trouble,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding
that if Trump was spreading misinformation, “it shows this president
doesn’t know how to conduct himself.”

Clapper said “there was no evidence” of
collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in a January
intelligence report concluding Russian interference in the 2016
election, but “this could have unfolded or become available in the time
since I left government.”
Trump’s
allegations echo charges made in recent days by several conservative
news and commentary outlets, all without offering any evidence.

Trump
should immediately turn over any evidence he has to support his
allegation, said U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who
serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“What
we need to deal with is evidence, not just statements,” she said on
CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding she also had not seen evidence of
collaboration “but we are in the very early stages of our
investigation.”
Trump fired his
first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in February after
revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the
Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

Josh
Earnest, the White House press secretary under Obama, said the
president did not have the authority to unilaterally order a wiretap of a
U.S. citizen.
“The president was
not giving marching orders to the FBI about how to conduct its
investigation,” Earnest said on ABC’s “This Week.”

 

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