FBI Chief James Comey Asked Justice Department To Refute Trump’s Wiretap Claim

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FBI Director James Comey this weekend sought a public rebuke from the Justice Department of President Trump’s claim that former president Barack Obama ordered the surveillance of Trump’s phones prior to the election, a U.S. official confirmed Sunday to USA TODAY.

The Justice Department had not responded to the request Sunday after Comey’s extraordinary request to discredit claims of a plot to sabotage the president’s campaign. The official who confirmed the FBI director’s action, first reported by The New York Times,  is not authorized to comment publicly.

Comey, the official said, wanted Justice to comment, because Trump’s claims were not true. The Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately comment on the matter.

The revelation of Comey’s request capped off a weekend in which Trump made a series of unsubstantiated claims about illegal wiretapping, while Democrats said he was trying to change the subject from the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. Through a spokesman Saturday, Obama denied wiretapping Trump, and on Sunday, former director of national intelligence James Clapper said he knew of no effort to seek wiretaps against Trump during his tenure.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Clapper said “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign.”

Pressed on whether he would know whether the FBI had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order to wiretap the Trump campaign, Clapper said he would have known and that none existed “to my knowledge,” and none was authorized for Trump Tower, the president’s campaign headquarters last year.

The statement followed Trump’s claim, in a series of tweets early Saturday, that Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” and, minutes later, “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court order. A NEW LOW!”

Trump also asked for a congressional investigation of his claims, saying in a statement from White House spokesman Sean Spicer that “reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.”

Trump is “requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” Spicer said. While Trump repeatedly tweeted about Obama during the weekend, Spicer’s statement said “neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”

The Sunday news interview shows focused on the Trump wiretap allegation, the campaign’s alleged contacts with Russian officials and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision last week to recuse himself from any investigation of the 2016 presidential race. The recusal came after news reports established that though Sessions testified under oath during his confirmation hearing that he, being a Trump campaign surrogate, had not met with Russian officials, he had in fact met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Session’s spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said he met with the ambassador in his capacity as a senator.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Bartholomew D Sullivan, Kevin Johnson, and David Jackson