Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to call President Trump’s bluff regarding the baseless allegation he made Saturday morning about President Obama tapping his phones — an allegation the White House has since asked Congress to investigate.
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
The Trump administration has provided no evidence to substantiate the president’s explosive claim, but on Wednesday, Graham and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively — sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey and Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente asking them for any information they might have about a warrant being issued to surveil Trump Tower. (Boente is handling the Russia probe following Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself after it was revealed he spoke falsely under oath about his communications with Russian officials.)
If a warrant has been issued, that indicates a FISA court found probable cause that members of the Trump campaign team communicated inappropriately with Russia, which would obviously be an explosive development. If no warrant has been issued, then that indicates Trump’s accusation is groundless, which would be scandal in its own right. Both Obama and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have said there’s nothing to Trump’s allegation.
“We request that the Department of Justice provide us copies of any warrant applications and court orders — redacted as necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods that may be compromised by disclosure, and to protect any ongoing investigations — related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower,” Graham and Whitehouse wrote. “We will be glad to review any such applications and orders once they are disclosed, and proceed as appropriate with the oversight the President has requested.”
During an interview with CNN, Graham said he’s willing to go as far as subpoenaing records from the FBI and Justice Department, which reportedly refused a request from Comey to “publicly reject” Trump’s assertion that Obama ordered his phones tapped.
“The president has asked Congress to look into whether or not his campaign was wiretapped by the Obama administration,” Graham said. “I will take up that challenge.”
During an interview later Wednesday with MSNBC, Graham laid out his position very clearly.
“I wrote DOJ, the FBI director, ‘if you have any evidence of a warrant being issued, tell us about it,’” he said. “There’s no reason for them not to give it to us. All we’re asking for [is] a warrant issue. And if they don’t give it to us, yeah, I’ll subpoena it.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 8, 2017
Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially attributed Trump’s allegations to “reports” that are “very troubling” to the president. Indeed, it appears Trump’s Saturday morning tweetstorm was inspired by a Breitbart piece about “steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.”
But on Monday, White House officials changed their story. During a Fox & Friends interview, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked about Trump’s evidence. Instead of citing reports from right-wing media, she cited classified intelligence.
“Let me answer that globally. He’s the president of the United States, he has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not,” Conway said of the her notoriously intelligence briefing-averse boss. “And that’s the way it should be for presidents.”
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that “[o]ver the weekend, aides to Mr. Trump decided the only real solution to the presidential Twitter posts was to kick the allegations to Congress.” And despite the complete lack of evidence, House Republicans are prepared to heed the White House’s call.
Both House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have indicated they plan to investigate Trump’s allegation. They’re less enthused, however, about investigating the Trump campaign’s communications with Russian officials, despite revelations in recent weeks that numerous members of Trump’s inner circle made statements about their pre-inauguration contacts that have later been shown to be deceptive.