A day after President Donald Trump alleged – without offering any evidence – that President Barack Obama had ordered the wiretapping of the Republican’s campaign headquarters, the White House said it won’t comment further until congressional oversight committees investigate the matter.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited unknown “reports” of “potentially politically motivated investigations” during the campaign, calling them “troubling.”
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” Spicer said. “President Donald J. 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.”
“Neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted,” he added.
Early Saturday, Trump – apparently in response to reports by a conservative radio host and on the conservative website Breitbart – accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower and engaging in a “Nixon/Watergate” effort to undermine his presidency.
But a senior U.S. official said Saturday that there was no such wiretap. A spokesman for Obama also said that the former president never authorized a wiretap of Trump or any other American citizen.
The White House’s escalation of Trump’s claims were kept at arm’s length by congressional Republicans appearing on Sunday morning news broadcasts.
When asked about Trump’s allegations, Senate Intelligence Committee member Tom Cotton, R-Ark., declined to comment on the president’s tweets but said he has “seen no evidence of the allegations.”
“Whether that’s a FISA court application or denial of that application or a re-submission of that application, that doesn’t mean that none of these things happened. It just means we haven’t seen that yet,” Cotton added.
Obama’s allies were more blunt, denying flatly that the former president had ordered a wiretap of Trump’s campaign.
“This may come as a surprise to the current occupant of the Oval Office, but the president of the United States does not have the authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of American citizens,” said former White House press secretary Josh Earnest.
Earnest accused Trump of attempting to distract from the controversy involving contacts between his campaign aides, including now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Russian officials.
“We know exactly why President Trump tweeted what he tweeted,” Earnest added. “Because there is one page in the Trump White House crisis management playbook, and that is simply to tweet or say something outrageous to distract from a scandal. And the bigger the scandal, the more outrageous the tweet.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Abby Phillip