WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's explosive allegation that
Barack Obama wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the presidential
campaign has left him increasingly isolated, with allies on Capitol Hill
and within his own administration offering no evidence to back him up.
Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had not given Trump
any reason to believe he was wiretapped by President Obama. Republican
Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he
had seen no information to support the claim and then went further. He
suggested the U.S. president's assertion, made in a series of March 4
tweets, should not be taken at face value.
"Are you going to take the tweets literally?" Nunes said. "If so, clearly the president was wrong."
Trump, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, predicted there would
be "some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next
Trump's allegations have put him in a potentially
perilous position as congressional investigations into Russia's
involvement in the 2016 election — and possible Russian contacts with
Trump associates — ramp up. The FBI is also investigating.
evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower emerges, his credibility would be
newly damaged. If there is proof that the Obama administration approved
monitoring of Trump or his associates, that would suggest the
government had reason to be suspicious of their contacts with Russia and
a judge had approved the surveillance.
The president, who appears
to have made his allegation in a burst of anger, has asked lawmakers to
investigate the claim. Lawmakers have since turned the question back
toward the administration, asking the Justice Department to provide
evidence of wiretapping activity.
The Justice Department missed a Monday deadline for providing the information to the House and was given a one-week extension.
Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who heads the Judiciary Committee's crime and
terrorism subcommittee, said the FBI will provide a classified briefing
on the matter "at some time in the future." Graham has previously said
he would use subpoena power to get information from the FBI about
whether a warrant was issued allowing the Obama administration to tap
Trump's phones during the campaign.
Longtime Trump adviser Roger
Stone told The Associated Press Wednesday that he believes his own
online exchanges with a Russian-linked hacker were obtained through a
special warrant that allows the government to collect the communications
of people suspected of being agents of a foreign nation. Stone
communicated through Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker
who has claimed responsibility for breaching the Democratic National
Stone said he was unaware at the time that U.S.
officials believed the hacker had ties to Russia. He said he is willing
to testify before any congressional committee that holds its hearings
"in public and not behind closed doors."
The House intelligence
committee will begin holding public hearings on Monday. Nunes said FBI
Director James Comey and Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National
Security Agency, will testify.
Ahead of the hearing, the committee
sent a letter to the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency
requesting details by Friday about Americans who surfaced in
intelligence collections last year.
Identities of Americans who
show up in U.S. surveillance against foreign targets are generally
concealed, but can be unmasked by intelligence agencies in certain
circumstances. Those include situations when the communications contain
information that a crime has or is about to be committed, when the
Americans' identity is necessary to understand the importance of the
foreign intelligence collected or when the communication provides
information that an American may be an agent of a foreign power.
Asked whether Trump's communications may have been swept up in surveillance, Nunes said it was "very possible."
a staunch supporter of Trump during the campaign, recused himself
earlier this month from the Russia investigations after it was revealed
that he did not disclose his own contacts with Russia's ambassador to
the United States. Asked Wednesday if he had ever briefed Trump on the
investigation or given the president any reason to believe he had been
wiretapped by the Obama administration, Sessions said, "The answer is
Trump has said little about his allegations against Obama,
largely leaving it to White House aides to explain his inflammatory
The White House appeared to be backing away from
Trump's claims on Monday, with spokesman Sean Spicer saying the
president was referring to general surveillance that may have been
approved by the Obama administration. On Tuesday, Spicer said the
president was "extremely confident" the Justice Department would provide
evidence vindicating him.
Graham and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck
Grassley have both said they will hold up hearings for Rod Rosenstein,
Trump's nominee to serve as deputy attorney general, unless they get
more information from the FBI. Given Sessions' recusal, Rosenstein would
take over responsibility for any probes touching the Trump campaign and
Russia's election meddling if he's confirmed.
"It's just too bad that we have to go to this length," Grassley said.