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At a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday morning, FBI Director James Comey said there was no evidence to support President Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his campaign.
“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets,” Comey said. “And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
The hearing was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, the president’s claims about surveillance of his campaign, and the source and impact of government leaks.
Comey’s testimony echoes what legislators from both sides of the aisle said last week.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Mark Warner, D-Va., last week saying, “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”
FBI Director James Comey gestures as National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers looks on during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
That statement followed comments from the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif), who said the president was clearly “wrong” about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower, but left the White House an out with a possible broader interpretation:
“President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower. So now you have to decide, as I mentioned to [the press] last week, are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are then clearly the president was wrong. But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally and there is a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him and his associates — either appropriately or inappropriately — we want to find that out.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. , the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., both said in separate interviews last week that they had seen “no evidence” of the wiretapping.
The entire investigation sprang from a pair of the president’s tweets early on the morning of March 4.
“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” wrote Trump. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The controversy went international last week during a White House briefing when press secretary Sean Spicer cited Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano’s claim that British intelligence had done surveillance on Trump at Obama’s request. Fox News anchor Shep Smith said that the network had been unable to confirm Napolitano’s comment, while the British prime minister’s office asked Spicer to stop repeating those claims.
“I don’t want to get into private conversations, but we’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored,” a Downing Street spokesman told the Guardian regarding Spicer’s accusations. “We’ve received assurances these allegations won’t be repeated. We have a close relationship which allows us to raise concerns when they arise, as was true in this case. This shows the administration doesn’t give the allegations any credence.”
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