House intelligence leaders see no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower
March 15, 2017 11:43 AM
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they have seen no evidence supporting President Donald Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him last year.
GOP Rep. Devin Nunes and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California, said they're still waiting for evidence from the Justice Department backing up that claim. Schiff says he and Nunes are willing to take steps to compel the department to comply with their request if it refuses by the March 20 deadline they've given the Justice Department.
Nunes said he doesn't believe there was "an actual tap of Trump Tower" in New York.
Nunes also says the committee is tussling with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over whether the committee will be allowed to have the computer technology needed to go through CIA evidence about Russia's interference in the election.
The leaders say FBI Director James Comey and the head of the National Security Agency will testify at a public hearing on March 20.
Two senior White House officials suggested Monday that Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama had tapped his telephone was not meant to be taken literally, arguing that Trump had been referring more broadly to a variety of surveillance efforts during the 2016 campaign when he made the incendiary accusation.
“He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.
In fact, Spicer said, when Trump charged in a Twitter post last weekend that Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower,” he was referring generally to surveillance activities during the 2016 race — not to an actual telephone wiretap.
“The president was very clear in his tweet that it was, you know, ‘wiretapping,'” Spicer said, using his fingers to make a gesture suggesting quotation marks. “That spans a whole host of surveillance types of options.”
Spicer said there have been “numerous reports from a variety of outlets over the last couple months that seemed to indicate that there has been different types of surveillance that occurred during the 2016 election.”
The remarks were the first time the White House sought to explain the accusation Trump made in a series of posts on Twitter saying Obama “was tapping my phones” and calling the former president a “bad (or sick) guy.”