A day after meeting with FBI Director James Comey, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee declared Friday that he had seen no evidence supporting Donald Trump’s accusations that his phones were wiretapped during the presidential campaign by order of President Barack Obama.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was among the so-called “Gang of Eight” — House members who have access to the most highly classified information — who met with Comey Thursday evening. Schiff came away with no information supporting Trump’s claims, he told CNN. “I think when Sean Spicer isn’t even willing to talk about it, you know there’s a real problem.”
Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the Republican head of the committee, also said earlier this week that he had seen no evidence backing Trump’s accusation. He said after the Comey meeting that nothing had changed. Comey had earlier said there was no truth to Trump’s claim and had asked the Justice Department, now headed by Trump’s pick Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to make a statement to that effect, but the department declined.
Schiff made his comments the same day as a bizarre standoff between the president and an ABC reporter who repeatedly asked Trump if there was any evidence to back his claims. Trump completely ignored him.
Schiff said he believes Comey will answer questions about the issue at a committee hearing this month. “He certainly is prepared for the question,” Schiff told CNN. “I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t answer it. He might even welcome the opportunity.”
Trump unleashed his Twitter attack last Saturday from Mar-a-Lago, calling Obama “sick” for allegedly ordering wiretaps on his Trump Tower phones during the campaign. But when pressed later, Trump offered no further information.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Trump, as the media has speculated over the last week, very likely obtained the information from an unverified Breibart News article. Aides had placed a copy of the article in his Saturday morning reading material, an unnamed White House official told the news service.
The article was based on an accusation by conservative radio personality Mark Levin that Obama was waging a shadowy “silent coup” against Trump, again with no evidence or verification. Levin referenced an article in Heat Street that never mentioned the word “wiretap.”
Trump’s Twitter language that he had “just found out” about the wiretapping (apparently from a media outlet, not from his own intelligence services) was similar to his controversial comment on Sweden last month that seemed to indicate that there had been a terrorist attack in the country the previous night. “Look at what’s happening in Sweden last night,” he said at a Florida rally. In fact, what was “happening” was that Trump was watching a Fox News program on refugees in Sweden. There was no terrorist attack.
The New York Times reported that within hours of the Mar-a-Lago tweets, Trump was asking aides if there was anyone who could substantiate the information.