A day after accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his phones before the election, President Trump called on Congress to investigate his claim, for which he has cited no evidence.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement on Sunday saying that “reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” and that Trump is asking Congress to investigate.
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” the statement read. “Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department “to publicly reject” Trump’s assertion that Obama ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones, the New York Times reported Sunday.
“Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected,” the paper said, citing “senior American officials” as its source.
Early Saturday morning, Trump unleashed a series of tweets claiming Obama had wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower prior to the 2016 election. Trump provided no citations to back up the claim, and a spokesman for the former president branded the accusation “simply false.”
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he declared from his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Fla., where Trump is once again spending the weekend.
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” he added.
It wasn’t clear what, exactly, Trump was referring to as he raged against his predecessor, whom he labeled a “bad (or sick) guy!” And the White House did not clarify from whom Trump had “just learned” this new information.
But a report published Friday by right-wing Breitbart News quoted conservative radio host Mark Levin, who outlined the alleged steps the Obama took “in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.” The Washington Post reported that the Breitbart article had been passed around in the White House ahead of Trump’s tweets. (Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, is a former chief executive of Breitbart.)
If Trump obtained the wiretap information from his own intelligence sources instead of media reports, he’d have the authority to declassify the material and substantiate his claims.
On Sunday, Trump followed up his seemingly conspiratorial Twitter flurry with another early-morning tweet aimed at his predecessor.
Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, "Tell Vladimir that after the election I'll have more flexibility?" @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2017
“Who was it that secretly said to Russian President, ‘Tell Vladimir that after the election I’ll have more flexibility?'” Trump tweeted, tagging his favorite morning cable news program, “Fox & Friends.”
In the tweet, Trump was referring to a March 26, 2012, conversation between Obama and then-outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a nuclear security summit in Seoul. Obama was caught on a hot mic telling Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election to deal with missile defense relations, urging Moscow to give him “space” to do so.
Medvedev assured Obama he would relay the message to then-incoming President Vladimir Putin.
“I understand your message about space,” Medvedev said. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
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