Trump maintains confidence in FBI head amid wiretap friction

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump still has confidence in FBI Director James Comey, the White House said on Monday, despite his assertiveness in challenging Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him during the 2016 election campaign.

Federal Bureau of Investigation head Comey has asked the Justice Department to reject Trump's accusation that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap at Trump Tower in New York because the claim was false and must be corrected, a federal law enforcement official said.

Asked whether Trump still had confidence in Comey, White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said, "There’s nothing that I have been told by him that would lead me to believe that anything is different than what it was prior."

He was "almost 100 percent certain" Trump had not spoken to Comey since the Republican president made the allegation on Twitter on Saturday. "I'm not aware that that occurred," Spicer told reporters.

Trump gave no evidence for his claim, the latest twist in a controversy over ties between Trump associates and Russia that has dogged the early days of his presidency.

The wiretapping allegation hit U.S. stocks on Monday. Some investors worried that the affair could distract Trump from his economic agenda of introducing tax cuts and simplifying regulations that has powered a record-setting rally on Wall Street since the election.

The lack of detail on Trump's proposals, his isolationist stance and setbacks in filling his Cabinet have made investors question whether the post-election rally has run its course.

Democrats accused Trump of making the wiretapping claim to try to distract from controversy about possible links to Russia. His administration has come under pressure from FBI and congressional investigations into contacts between members of his campaign team and Russian officials.

A Republican lawmaker who heads a House of Representatives oversight panel said on Monday he had seen no direct evidence to back Trump's wiretapping assertion.

"Thus far, I have not seen anything directly that would support what the president has said," Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CBS in an interview.

The White House asked the Republican-controlled Congress to examine, as part of an ongoing congressional probe into Russia's influence on the election, whether the Obama administration abused its investigative authority.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey. Emily Stephenson and Eric Walsh; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

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