White House Mounts Vigorous Defense of Wiretap Tweets After Senate Intel Says No Evidence
WASHINGTON -- A day after the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said they hadn't seen any evidence to back President Trump's claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, the co-chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed.
But White House press secretary Sean Spicer followed that statement with a vigorous defense of Trump's accusation at the daily briefing.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump tweeted March 4 while in Mar-a-Lago. "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!"
On Wednesday, Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who was a member of Trump's transition team, appeared at a joint press briefing on Capitol Hill with Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to say "we don't have any evidence that that took place... I don't believe there was an actual tap of Trump Tower."
Schiff added, "I've seen no evidence that supports the claim that the president made that his predecessor wiretapped he and his associates at Trump Tower -- thus far, we have seen no basis for that whatsoever."
Schiff also noted he expects FBI Director James Comey to shoot down Trump's claim when he testifies in open session Monday before the committee.
Today, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who was a member of candidate Trump's national security advisory council, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) issued a brief joint statement.
"Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," Burr and Warner said.
Nunes noted that it was "possible" but as yet unproven whether communications involving Americans connected to the Trump campaign were intercepted in incidental collection -- where a Russian subject would have been under surveillance and his or her contacts included communication with an American. That's how former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's communications with the Russian ambassador were intercepted; Nunes told a CNN reporter today that he wasn't aware of any other incidents of incidental collection surrounding Trump officials other than Flynn.
Spicer focused on this method of collection and Nunes' use of the word "possible" in his lengthy arguments at today's press briefing, along with reports that FISA warrants were granted last year to monitor individuals connected to two Russian banks. He read parts of stories from various sources including The New York Times, Fox News, Heat Street and Sean Hannity.