DOJ delays on evidence surrounding Trump’s wiretapping allegations
The Justice Department asked lawmakers for more time Monday to gather evidence related to President Trump’s claim that President Obama ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower’s phones during last year’s presidential election campaign. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in a letter last week asked the Justice Department to turn over by Monday, yesterday.
The House intelligence committee said it would give the Justice Department until March 20 to comply.
The committee is scheduled to hold its first open hearing on Russia’s interference in the 2016 race and possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia on that date.
“If the committee does not receive a response by then, the Committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered,” House Intelligence Committee Republicans spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer tried to clarify Trump’s comments Monday, saying the president wasn’t using the word wiretapping literally, noting that Trump had put the term in quotation marks.
“The president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities,” Spicer said. He also suggested Trump wasn’t accusing former President Barack Obama specifically, but instead referring to the actions of the Obama administration.
Trump himself has not commented on the matter since his March 4 tweets, in which he said he had “just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory.” He also wrote: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be `wire tapping’ a race for president?”
Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, has said “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
This statement appears to false since FISA warrants and mass surveillance has been widely key in terrorism prevention, various arrests and investigations.
Russia’s influence in the 2016 Election was an emotional reaction to the surprising Trump victory, but recent confirmation of Hillary Clinton’s meetings with Moscow’s representation has quieted the outcry from the left.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News’ “Special Report with Bret Baier” that he had “seen no evidence that the tap occurred” before adding, “I don’t want to get ahead of the intelligence committee.”
Other congressional committees are also pushing the administration to clarify Trump’s claims.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and FBI Director James Comey to produce the paper trail created when the Justice Department’s criminal division secures warrants for wiretaps.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday: “I think the president has one of two choices: either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve.”
“If his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here, to say the least,” McCain said.
Comey has privately urged the Justice Department to dispute Trump’s claim but has not come forward to do so himself. James Clapper, who was Obama’s director of national intelligence, has said that nothing matching Trump’s claims had taken place.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway sidestepped questions about the lack of proof Monday, saying she was “not in the job of having evidence.”
“That’s what investigations are for,” Conway told CNN’s “New Day.” “The president is pleased that the House and Senate intelligence committees have agreed that this should be part of the investigation that already exists about Russia and the campaign, an investigation that apparently has gone nowhere so far.”