UPDATE — 3/7, 8:22 p.m. EST: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that he has not seen evidence to support President Trump’s claim the Obama administration wiretapped the 2016 Republican presidential campaign.
“I think the bigger question that needs to be answered is whether or not Mr. Trump or any of his associates were in fact targeted by any of the intelligence agencies or law enforcement authorities,” Nunes told the press, noting that if such a warrant was issued, he and his Senate counterpart would have been informed.
House Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian interference are set to begin March 20.
Despite skepticism among both Democratic and Republican lawmakers with regard to Donald Trump’s charge former President Obama authorized the wire tapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, the intelligence committees of both chambers of Congress will include the allegation in a wider probe of alleged Russian interference.
“I’m sure this matter will be part of this inquiry,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News Sunday.
Cotton added he had seen no evidence to support President Trump’s claim of wiretapping or reason to apply the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) based on speculation the Republican campaign conspired with Moscow to defeat rival Hillary Clinton.
Harnessed to collect intelligence, a FISA grants sweeping power for surveillance on foreign powers or foreign agents. It also authorizes surveillance on American citizens and foreign nationals.
Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the FBI are currently looking into attempts by Russian intelligence services allegedly hacking into the 2016 election, the latter having already reportedly contacted former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to help in the investigation.
“I will do everything in my power to reasonably ensure that all information concerning my activities related to Russia last year is preserved,” Page said in a letter Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
Mr. Trump leveled the charge Mr. Obama had arranged to have Trump Tower under surveillance beginning in October in a series of tweets over the weekend. Trump maintains a residence and offices in the New York building.
Following Trump’s accusation, several former Obama administration officials denied the charge, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Similarly, the New York Times reported FBI Director James Comey has asked the Justice Department to refute the allegation over his concerns it impugns the reputation of the Bureau and implicates the FBI as a rogue agency.
Charged with leading the probe is Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who, in contrast to the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said his probe would include the “government’s response” to alleged Russian hacking attempts.
Responding, Schiff’s office released a terse statement accusing the president of engaging in wild conspiracy theories.
[AP via Business Insider] [Fox News] [New York Times] [Politico] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Mario Tama/Getty Images via Vanity Fair]