President Trump defends wiretap accusation amid doubts
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his baseless accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower, saying the media reports and the initial proof he had at the time made his claim appropriate.
Trump said in an interview that his accusation was grounded in a New York Times story and a Fox News report, and that he currently has additional proof that he has yet to make public.
The President, pressed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about why he did not wait for more evidence to materialize before releasing it, maintained that his burden had been met.
“Frankly, we have a lot right now,” Trump said of his proof, before pivoting back to the media coverage of supposed wiretaps. “But wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”‘
The White House recently argued that Trump was not literally claiming that Obama tapped the phones at Trump Tower, but was more broadly performing surveillance on Trump’s Midtown home and offices.
“Let’s see whether or not I prove it. I just don’t choose to do it right now,” Trump said. “I choose to do it before the committee, and maybe I’ll do it before the committee. Maybe I’ll do it before I see the result of the committee. But I think we have some very good stuff.”
Earlier Wednesday, even GOP lawmakers cast doubt on Trump’s claims.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he does not believe Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him, but said it’s possible Trump communications may have been gathered in “incidental” intelligence collection.
“I don’t believe Trump Tower was tapped,” the Republican told reporters Wednesday.
“We don’t have any evidence that that took place and, in fact, I don’t believe — just in the last week of time, the people we’ve talked to — I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes said at a news conference in reference to the claim originally made by Trump several weeks ago.
Nunes and Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said they want to see any evidence of wiretapping by their March 20 hearing or they may also issue a subpoena for the records.
Asked if he had seen any evidence that Trump aides spoke with Russian officials other than the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, Nunes said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
But Schiff added: “I wouldn’t answer that question as categorically as my colleague. We’re not privileged to talk about the contents of the investigation but, you know, I think we need to be very precise when we talk about this. And I just don’t think that we can answer it categorically in this forum.”