A key Republican lawmaker said on Wednesday he did not believe the Obama administration ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.
“We don’t have any evidence that that took place,” House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told a news conference. “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.”
Doubts expressed by the top Republican has added to the pressure on FBI Director James Comey to provide evidence supporting or debunking Republican President Donald Trump’s claim.
Trump made the claim on Twitter on March 4 without providing evidence. Nunes’ congressional committee is one of at least four that have added the startling accusation to investigations of possible Russian meddling in the election campaign and Russian ties to Trump and his associates.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under Obama, has said he knew of no warrant to wiretap Trump Tower.
Nunes said if Trump’s tweets were taken literally, then “clearly the president was wrong.”
With his statements, Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, joined other lawmakers, including some of his fellow Republicans, who have been skeptical about the president’s claim, and frustrated with what they see as federal law enforcement’s failure to provide them with information.
The top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, Adam Schiff, said at the news conference with Nunes that Comey would be asked about wiretap evidence at a rare public hearing on Monday. “It deeply concerns me that the president would make such an accusation without basis,” Schiff said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia conducted cyber attacks on Democrats in an effort to influence the 2016 U.S. election on Trump’s behalf. Russia has denied this.
At the same time, Trump has been dogged by allegations that his associates had ties to Russian officials. Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, last month after he failed to disclose contacts with Russia’s ambassador before Trump took office on Jan. 20.
Trump seemed to back away from his accusation of wiretapping in a Fox News interview on Wednesday, saying “wiretap covers a lot of different things.”
Without providing details, the president added, “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” according to excerpts of the interview, which will air later on Wednesday.
Schiff and Nunes said they sent a letter asking Comey, Rogers and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to provide by Friday information on leaks of classified information, including names of any Americans that might have been gathered.
Schiff said he expected the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cooperate. The committee leaders said they were prepared to issue subpoenas if they did not.
In Richmond, Virginia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters that he never gave Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped by the previous administration, according to a transcript provided by CBS News.
While White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Trump “feels very comfortable” that information existed regarding surveillance conducted during 2016, a number of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress remained unconvinced. (NAN)