One day after President Donald Trump tweeted unsubstantiated claims that Barack Obama had illegally wiretapped Trump Tower before last fall’s election, the White House has called on Congress to “determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement on Sunday, though it was unclear if he was referring to official government reports which have not been disclosed or media reports on right-wing outlets such as Breitbart News that have been publicly disputed.
Despite calls from congressional leaders of both parties for Trump to substantiate his explosive allegations, Spicer added, “Neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
Trump made the allegations via Twitter early Saturday, offering no evidence for his claim but stating that his predecessor ran a “Nixon/Watergate” plot “during the very sacred election process.” He also called Obama a “bad (or sick) guy!” and likened the unfounded efforts to “McCarthyism.”
Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis quickly dismissed Trump’s claims as “unequivocally false.” “Neither @barackobama nor any WH official under Obama has ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. Citizen,” he said in a tweet on Saturday.
James Clapper, who served as Director of National Intelligence under Obama, on Sunday flatly denied that there was a wiretap authorized against Trump or his campaign during his tenure in the White House.
“There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I can deny it.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, blasted Trump in a statement Saturday for making “the most outlandish and destructive claims without providing a scintilla of evidence to support them.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, urged the president to detail the basis of his claims about wiretapping “ideally to the full public, and at a bare minimum to the U.S. Senate.”