Both the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday that they see no evidence backing up Trump’s accusation that he was wiretapped during the campaign by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
Trump made the accusations, without backing up his claims, early in the morning on March 4th.
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
“I’ll 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!” Trump also tweeted.
The claim — which, if true, would likely have greater negative implications for Trump than Obama — quickly tore through Washington, D.C. The next day, the White House asked Congress to investigate the claims.
In the ensuing week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has offered no evidence and mutually contradictory excuses—saying Trump didn’t actually mean wiretapping when he tweeted about “wiretapping” one day, and that Trump is confident that the investigation will vindicate his tweets the next.
Trump is “extremely confident” DOJ will produce evidence to support his claim Trump Tower was surveilled by Obama admin., Spicer says pic.twitter.com/wsUDpQ3vio
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 14, 2017
But one day after Spicer said he was “extremely confident” Trump would be found to be correct, two GOP officials have said they’ve seen no evidence supporting his claim.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that he’s seen no evidence of wiretapping at Trump tower, and that he had said the same a week ago.
“I think the challenge here is, is that President Obama wouldn’t physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower, so now you have to decide — as I mentioned to you last week — are you going to take the tweets literally, and if you are, then clearly the President is wrong,” Nunes said.
He then equivocated, saying that if Trump was concerned about “other people, other surveillance activities,” targeting him or his associates, then that did warrant an investigation. The Justice Department had been instructed to turn over the results of their own investigation to the intelligence committees by Monday, but asked for additional time.
Trump has also gotten no backup from his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. At a press conference in Richmond, Virginia earlier in the day, a reporter asked Sessions if he had given Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped.
“Look, um, the answer’s no,” Sessions replied.
As Attorney General, Sessions is the top justice official in the country. Presumably, he would be the first one to know about surveillance operations such as the one that allegedly targeted Trump — and he would be tasked with informing the president about any existing evidence.
Given that the White House hasn’t provided evidence, and Sessions says he didn’t give Trump any reason to think he’d been wiretapped, then the logical question to ask is where Trump got the idea.
Circumstance suggests he plucked it from the right-wing conspiracy chamber.
The day before Trump fired off his tweets, Breitbart published a writeup of a conspiracy theory, culled from conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin, alleging that Obama had wiretapped Trump.
According to CNN, the article “circulated” in the West Wing and “infuriated” Trump.
Neither Breitbart nor Levin provided credible evidence for the theory. Instead, they cherry-picked points from other sources and selectively strung them together to support a misleading argument.
A spokesman for Obama called the accusations “simply false.”