Donald Trump wire-tapping claim: President wants probe into Barack Obama as FBI wants it rejected
President Donald Trump gestures from the stairs of Air Force One upon his arrival at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach on Friday. Picture: Luis M. Alvarez/AP
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FBI Director James Comey has called for the Justice Department to reject the explosive accusation that Barack Obama tapped Donald Trump’s phones.
The New York Times is reporting that the director of the FBI has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject President Donald Trump’s assertion that Barack Obama as president ordered the tapping of Trump’s phones during the presidential campaign.
President Trump — who has ordered an enquiry into the tapping scandal — is also said to be furious with senior staff for allowing the controversy around Attorney General Jeff Sessions to steal the limelight from Trump’s historic address to Congress.
“Nobody has seen him this upset,” a White House source said.
The source said Trump’s frustration was with shift in narrative caused by Sessions’ involvement with the Russian ambassador to the US.
As for Comey, the Times reports on its website that he that the Trump claim is false and must be corrected. No such statement has been issued by the Justice Department.
The Times reports that the officials say Comey wants the claim rejected publicly because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law.
Trump made the allegation of tapped phones at Trump Tower in a series of tweets Saturday but cited no evidence. An Obama spokesman says the allegation is false. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the Times report.
The news comes after former US National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who served under former President Barack Obama, has denied that any of Trump’s conversations were tapped or recorded during last year’s election campaign.
“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, as a candidate, or against his campaign,” Clapper, who was DNI chief from 2010-2017, said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.
Ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied any knowledge of wire-tapping Donald Trump’s conversations. Picture: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP
Clapper said that if such recordings had been made, or such tapping performed, he “certainly” would have known about it, adding that he could deny the existence of any judicial order permitting the FBI to monitor communications at Trump Tower in New York, the magnate’s campaign headquarters.
Trump has asked Congress to investigate whether Obama abused executive powers by allegedly ordering wiretaps during the 2016 presidential campaign, White House press secretary Sean 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,” Spicer said in a statement.
President Donald Trump and the White House have described the tapping scandal as an “abuse of power”. Picture: AP/Pablo Martinez MonsivaisSource:AP
On Saturday, Trump alleged that Obama ordered the wiretapping of his phones in Trump Tower during the campaign, comparing the move to the Watergate case. Trump made the allegations against Obama in a series of early morning tweets, but he offered no evidence to support his claims.
Spicer said the White House wanted congressional investigators to look into the alleged wiretapping at Trump Tower, which served as the headquarters of the president’s campaign team.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” Spicer said.
WHITE HOUSE DEMANDS PROBE INTO WIRETAPPING
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump has called on Congress to investigate unproven claims he made on Twitter that Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower to be wire-tapped in the lead-up to his shock election win.
Overnight, the White House issued a statement calling for an investigation into the extraordinary accusation.
“Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling,” the statement reads.
“President 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.”
These two aren’t exactly getting on. Pic: AFPSource:AFP
Essentially, Mr Trump is asking Congress to find proof to back up his claims, as the White House has been unable to produce any. That appears to be a step back from his position on Saturday, when he accused the former president in no uncertain terms.
“Terrible! Just found that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he said in an early morning tweetstorm.
“Is it legal for a sitting president to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by a court earlier. A NEW LOW!
“I’d 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 the election!
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
In an interview with ABC News today, the White House’s deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders seemed to indicate Mr Trump had seen the allegation in the media before repeating it on Twitter.
“Look, I think he’s going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential. And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself. And the American people have a right to know if this took place,” Ms Sanders said.
Mr Obama, for his part, has denied ordering any tapping of Mr Trump’s communications, though it’s possible the Justice Department acted without his direction.
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false,” the former president’s spokesman said.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Mr Trump was probably right that there had been surveillance on him, but it would have been led by the US Justice Department, not by Mr Obama.
“I think he’s right in that there was surveillance and that it was conducted at the behest of the attorney general at the Justice Department,” Mr Mukasey told US ABC.
However, ex-Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper denied that any wire-tapping of Mr Trump had taken place.
Mr Clapper, who was the DNI under Mr Obama, told NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday that “there was no such wire-tap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, as a candidate, or against his campaign.”
President Donald Trump. Pic: APSource:AP
Meanwhile, Mr Trump kept up his online trolling of Mr Obama with another early morning Twitter attack on Sunday.
This time the President took a jab at his predecessor by referencing a hot mic incident in the run-up to the 2012 election.
The tweet refers to a remark made by the former president in 2012 during a meeting with the then outgoing Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev.
Mr Trump is currently under pressure because of his administration’s alleged ties to Russia, amid claims the Kremlin hacked the US election in his favour.
In a separate tweet on Sunday the US president accused the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of denying the FBI access to its server to investigate the Russian hack.
He wrote: “Is it true the DNC would not allow the FBI access to check server or other equipment after learning it was hacked? Can that be possible?”
Mr Trump’s attacks on his predecessor contrast with the apparent amicable relations between the two men during the transition of power where Mr Trump lavished praise on Mr Obama for graciously handing over the presidency.
Donald Trump and former president Barack Obama on the day Mr Trump was sworn in as president. Picture: Rob Carr/APSource:AFP
TONY BLAIR ‘DISCUSSED TRUMP ROLE WITH JARED KUSHNER’
Meanwhile, it emerged that former British prime minister Tony Blair attended a secret meeting at the White House to discuss working for Mr Trump.
The ex-Prime Minister held talks with Mr Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday allegedly with a view to becoming a Middle East peace envoy, The Sunreports.
Mr Blair and Mr Kushner have met three times since September, including their three-hour meeting last week, according to The Mail on Sunday.
Former British PM Tony Blair has denied he is looking for a job with Mr Trump. Picture: Georges Gobet/AFPSource:AFP
The first meeting was in Aspen, Colorado, in September, where Mr Blair first met Mr Kushner.
The event was also attended by ex-British Chancellor George Osborne, who was a speaker at the Aspen event.
It is claimed that days after Mr Trump’s election victory in November, Mr Blair and Mr Kushner met again when they ate out at the up-market Harry Cipriani restaurant in New York’s Sherry-Netherland Hotel.
Jared Kushner, pictured with Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, has met with Tony Blair to discuss the Middle East. Picture: Willie J. Allen Jr./APSource:AP
However, a spokeswoman for the former UK leader said she would not comment on private meetings but insisted there had been no discussions about him working for Mr Trump.
It has also been revealed that the British ex-spy who authored the explosive report in to Mr Trump’s alleged links to Russia has been approached about testifying before the US Senate.
It is understood that Democrats — as well as some Republicans — in Congress are keen to meet with Christopher Steele about testifying before the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the new President’s alleged Russia links, the Independent reports.
Mr Trump’s alleged ties to Russia during the US election are being probed. Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFPSource:AFP
US senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent an intermediary to London in November last year to collect Mr Steele’s dossier, which was subsequently passed personally by the Senator to FBI director James Comey, the paper reported.
Mr Trump has personally attacked Mr Steele as a “failed spy”. Though he is reportedly well-regarded in the intelligence community.
The dossier made unsubstantiated claims that the Kremlin secretly filmed Mr Trump in a compromising situation. The US president has denied the allegations.
NEW TRAVEL BAN EXPECTED ON MONDAY
Meanwhile, Mr Trump is expected to sign a revised version of his controversial travel ban on Monday, just over a month after his original ban led to massive protests and scene of chaos at US airports.
The president will sign the new executive order at the US Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico, which cited senior government officials.
The original travel ban triggered protests in the United States. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
It was unclear what changes Mr Trump planned to make although it was reported last week that the new order would not include Iraq, seen as a key US ally in the battle with Islamic State.
Mr Trump’s original January 27 order was widely criticised as amounting to a ban on Muslims, and also for being rolled out sloppily - with virtually no warning to the public or preparation of the agencies tasked with enforcing it.
The order, which temporarily barred people from seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the United States for 90 days, as well as all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees permanently - triggered worldwide outrage as well as protests in the United States.
The first travel ban caused chaos at US airports. Picture: Ted S. Warren/APSource:AP
The order was halted after two judicial setbacks - a nationwide freeze on Trump’s ban by a US district judge in Seattle and a subsequent ruling by San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the suspension.
PIC SHOWS CLINTON READING ABOUT PENCE EMAIL SCANDAL
A photo has gone viral on social media showing Hillary Clinton on a flight reading a newspaper headline about US vice-president Mike Pence’s use of a private email.
A fellow passenger snapped the picture of the Democrat presidential candidate on a flight between Boston and New York.