US Congress to probe Trump wiretap claim, FBI disputes it
by Associated Press
WASHINGTONMar 07, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Associated Press
Mar 07, 2017 12:00 am
Key members of Congress say they will honor President Donald Trump's request to investigate his unsubstantiated claim that Barack Obama overstepped his authority as president and had Trump's telephones tapped during the election campaign. A U.S. official said the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute Trump's allegation, though no such statement has been issued.
Obama's intelligence director also said no such action was ever carried out.
Trump's startling claim of presidential abuse of power, made without evidence in a series of tweets early Saturday, capped a week in which the positive reaction to his address to Congress quickly evaporated amid the swirl of allegations — and revelations — about contacts between Trump aides and Russia's ambassador to the U.S., both during and after a presidential election Russia is believed to have meddled in.
Trump is said to be frustrated by his senior advisers' inability to tamp down the Russia issue. Compounding the situation was the revelation last week that former U.S. senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an early Trump campaign supporter, had met twice with the Russian official but didn't disclose that to lawmakers when he was asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Separately, an Indiana newspaper reported that Vice President Mike Pence used personal email to conduct state business when he was governor of Indiana. The revelation recalled the use of personal email by Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state. The issue dogged Clinton for most of the presidential campaign.
The House and Senate intelligence committees, and the FBI, are investigating the contacts, and Trump demanded Sunday that they broaden the scope of their inquiries into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to include Obama's potential abuse of his executive powers.
Trump's request carries some risk, particularly if the committees unearth damaging information about him or his associates. Committee Democrats will have access to the information and could wield anything negative against the president. Asking Congress to conduct a much broader investigation than originally envisioned also ensures the Russia issue will hang over the White House for months.
Trump claimed in a series of unsubstantiated tweets Saturday that his predecessor had tried to undermine him by tapping the telephones at Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where Trump based his campaign and transition operations, and maintains a home.
Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said nothing matching Trump's claims had taken place.
"Absolutely, I can deny it," said Clapper, who left government when Trump took office. Other Obama representatives also denied Trump's allegation, which the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Sunday. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the request by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The department, however, has issued no such statement. DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment Sunday, and an FBI spokesman also did not comment.
The New York Times reported that senior American officials say FBI Director James Comey has argued that the Justice Department must correct the claim because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump's instruction to Congress was based on "very troubling" reports "concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election." He did not elaborate.