The Trump administration asked Monday for more time to submit evidence to the House Intelligence Committee to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him in the waning days of last year’s presidential campaign.
Jack Langer, the House committee’s spokesman, said the panel had agreed to extend its Monday deadline but asked that whatever evidence the administration had be submitted before the committee’s first open hearing on Russian election meddling, now set for next Monday.
“If the committee does not receive a response by then,” Langer said, “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.”
Once they come up with their report . . . I think we can talk about the conclusions of that report.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer
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The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump lodged the allegations against Obama in a series of tweets March 4. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” read one. “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!” read another.” A third said, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined Monday to comment on when evidence would be sent to the House of Representatives committee. He said, however, that his “understanding is that they will” submit evidence.
Spicer also said that Trump had not meant wiretapping literally when he used that phrase in his tweet. Spicer said Trump was referring to surveillance in general and cited “a preponderance of reports that continue to come out about surveillance and actions that occurred during the 2016 election.”
Spicer did not specify what reports he was referring to. Rumors have circulated in Washington for weeks that the Obama administration had requested a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor conversations between Trump campaign operatives and Russian officials, but those rumors have not been confirmed. Obama’s top intelligence official, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 5 that he knew of no such warrant.
The request for evidence came last week from the Republican and Democratic leaders on the House committee, Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Schiff, in particular, said he looked forward to looking into the allegations.
“The president has said this is a scandal that is worse than Watergate, that his predecessor engaged in an illegal wiretap of his campaign. That is one potential scandal,” Schiff said.
But what he called “the alternative” result would also be scandalous, if it were determined that Trump made the accusation with no evidence.
Over the weekend, Schiff said he did not expect much evidence to come in to the committee.
Either way, he said the open hearing planned for next Monday, to which FBI Director James Comey has been invited to testify, should clear up the matter. He said that if wiretapping of Trump Tower had taken place, Comey would have known about it.
“We should be able to determine in fairly short order whether these accusations are true or false,” he said.
Nunes said last week that he would also like to see what evidence backed the claim.
“As you all know, the president is a neophyte at politics,” Nunes said. “He’s been doing this a little over a year. . . . Sometimes he doesn’t have 27 lawyers and staff looking at what he does, which is at times refreshing and at times leads to press conferences like this.”