Today's Paper Latest stories Paper Trails Wally Hall Obits Weather Newsletters Puzzles/games

WASHINGTON -- The Republican chairman and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that documents provided to Congress by the Justice Department on Friday offered no proof to support President Donald Trump's claim that his predecessor had ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower.

"Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No, there never was, and the information we got on Friday continues to lead us in that direction," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the committee chairman, said on Fox News Sunday.

He added, "There was no FISA warrant that I'm aware of to tap Trump Tower" -- a reference to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a federal law that governs the issuance of search warrants in U.S. intelligence gathering.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the panel's top Democrat, said: "We are at the bottom of this. There is nothing at the bottom."

[PRESIDENT TRUMP: Timeline, appointments, executive orders + guide to actions in first 100 days]

The two House leaders did not agree, however, on whether the question of collusion between Trump campaign figures and Russian operatives has been settled.

Nunes said the new Justice Department documents, submitted in response to a congressional request, included "no evidence of collusion" to swing the election in Trump's favor. The chairman repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof that there was any active coordination.

The lawmaker said he remained primarily concerned about leaks of U.S. surveillance of conversations between Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn resigned last month after the leaks revealed that he had privately discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.

"That's the only crime we know has been committed right now," Nunes said.

But Schiff, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, said there was "circumstantial evidence of collusion" at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as "direct evidence" that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

[EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox]

"Of course, there's one thing to say there's evidence; there's another thing to say we can prove this or prove it beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "But there was certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation. The American people have a right to know, and in order to defend ourselves, we need to know whether the circumstantial evidence of collusion and direct evidence of deception is indicative of more."

'Unmasking' questions

Trump last week defended his March 4 tweets that claimed President Barack Obama "had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory," which he compared to McCarthyism and the Watergate scandal.

In a Fox News Channel interview Thursday, Trump said, "I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks." Trump has also said he was referring more generally to surveillance, not necessarily bugging of phones. His aides have supported him on those claims.

Nunes said Trump could be referring to new information about whether intelligence officials "unmasked," or identified, U.S. citizens who were captured speaking with foreign officials who are under routine surveillance -- a process governed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"That is very possible, and we don't have the answers to those questions yet," he said. "We had a deadline of Friday for the [National Security Agency], FBI and CIA to get us those names that were unmasked through the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] system. We didn't get those names on Friday, and until we get those names, we can't rule this out."

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said on CNN's State of the Union that he had seen no evidence that the Obama administration had placed Trump under surveillance at Trump Tower, the Manhattan high-rise that houses Trump's residence, business office and campaign office.

Cotton deflected a question on whether the president should apologize for the accusation. But on ABC's This Week, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee did call on Trump to apologize.

"To quote my 85-year-old father ... it never hurts to say you're sorry," said Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, a former clandestine agent for the CIA. "I think it helps with our allies. We've got to make sure that we're all working together. We live in a very dangerous world, and we can't do this alone. ... It's not just sorry to the president, but also to the U.K. for the claims or the intimation that the U.K. was involved in this, as well. It doesn't hurt. And it takes away from the rest of his agenda."

The White House last week highlighted an unverified report that Britain's cyberintelligence organization conducted the surveillance at Obama's behest, even though the agency denied those claims. During German Chancellor Angela Merkel's first visit to the Trump White House, Trump mentioned the Obama administration's monitoring of Merkel's cellphone, claiming that he and the German leader have that in common.

"What the president said was just patently false," Schiff said of the Trump Tower allegations. "The wrecking ball it created has now banged into our British allies and our German allies and is continuing to grow in terms of damage. And he needs to put an end to this."

Committee hearing

The lawmakers spoke a day before the House Intelligence Committee holds its first public hearing on suspected Russian attempts to interfere in last year's presidential election.

While the FBI and other intelligence agencies have already found that Russia hacked into Democratic emails and leaked them in an attempt to help Trump, members of the intelligence panel want more information from FBI Director James Comey.

"Were there U.S. persons who were helping the Russians in any way?" Schiff questioned on Meet the Press. "Was there any form of collusion? And what can we do to protect not only ourselves in the future [but also] our allies who are facing the same Russian onslaught right now?"

Comey may need to be limited in his comments on collusion because of the nature of ongoing investigations, Schiff said.

"But there's a lot he can tell us about the Russian motivations for their intervention in our election, how the Russians operate in Europe, what techniques they use, what we should be on the lookout for in our investigation," he said.

Cotton said he was waiting to hear Comey's testimony.

"The House committee hearing ... is going to be in part about the unsubstantiated allegations in the media and by some Democrats of collusion between Trump associates and Russian intelligence," Cotton said.

Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, is also scheduled to testify.

In a separate interview on This Week, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., focused on the leak of Flynn's communications with Kislyak and said those within the federal government who might have been responsible should undergo lie-detector tests.

"It is very, very important that whoever released that go to jail, because you cannot have members of the intelligence community listening to the most private and highly classified information and then releasing that to The New York Times," Paul said. "There can only be a certain handful of people who did that. I would bring them all in. They would have to take lie-detector tests. And, I would say, including the political people, because some political people knew about this as well."

Hurd, however, pushed back on the notion that government operatives were seeking to undermine Trump.

"I spent 9½ years as an undercover officer," Hurd said. "I was the dude in the back alleys at 4 in the morning collecting intelligence to protect our homeland. ... The men and the women in the CIA, they do their job regardless of who is in the White House. Same for NSA. Same for FBI. These men and women are putting themselves in harm's way."

Hurd said that if Russia really is campaigning to interfere with U.S. politics, it would "go down in the history of Mother Russia as the greatest covert action campaign" it had ever pursued.

"It created a wedge, whether real or perceived, between the White House, the intelligence community and the American public," he said. "And that's why, as we go through this review and investigation, it has to be bipartisan. It has to be thorough. And it has to be thoughtful, because we are feeding into this covert-action narrative that the Russians are trying to create."

Information for this article was contributed by Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post; by Michele Salcedo of The Associated Press; and by Chris Strohm, Alan Bjerga and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 03/20/2017

Print Headline: In files, no proof of wiretapping, lawmakers say

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
    March 20, 2017 at 4:11 a.m.

    Our punk , the buck never stops with me, president has said, "We" got the info from Judge Napolitano of the Fear Obfuscation Xenophobic network. Why do we need investigations?

  • TimberTopper
    March 20, 2017 at 4:21 a.m.

    The POTUS lies! The problem is if anything serious comes up how can we or our allies take his word.

  • RobertBolt
    March 20, 2017 at 6:54 a.m.

    With Trump's record so far, is it not rational to assume he is lying on any given topic until we have clear evidence otherwise?

  • glh05230944
    March 20, 2017 at 9:40 a.m.

    The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct peculiar to officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming, and refusal to obey a lawful order.

    The grounds for impeachment appear above. At this time, at least three of the stated grounds apply to the Pervert who would be our President. If the Director of the FBI testifies today that there is no evidence of wire tapping by Obama, there will be four grounds for impeachment of the Pervert.

  • RBear
    March 20, 2017 at 10:31 a.m.

    The FBI testimony is starting to reveal how bad the Trump organization really is. No evidence of wiretapping initiated by Obama. FBI investigating allegations of collusion with the Russian hackers on the election. It's starting to get real. We'll see how much fortitude Republican lawmakers have in this investigating or if they will whitewash it. Right now, several are focused more on the Flynn leaks than the actual investigation, a sure sign of deflection.

  • 3WorldState1
    March 20, 2017 at 10:48 a.m.

    glh makes some very good, obvious points.
    Can you imagine the apology. "I apologize for blaming the previous President of wire tapping me with no proof what so ever and, helping to undermine our democracy." Two months in.

  • mrcharles
    March 20, 2017 at 12:21 p.m.

    Again fox entertainment , where retired circus clowns go to live out their lives as commentators [ lying bill admits most are just commentators, like your crazy aunt martha] gives forth birth to another Trump statement. Yet give him creddit, people spend time on the proof of the size of crowds, other irrelevant matters so that his role as the Most Divisive POTUS in history is constantly being deflected. Like questioning the revelation of Joe Smith.... boy we mormons do a lot of charity work....

    Why dont this person's supporters just admit they are hypocrites and as always they place party and business above loyatly to the country, the flag pin is just a diversion like the size of crowds, they will deal with russia [ midwest conservative farmers fin 80's selling wheat to a USSR that is going down the drain in order that hey might profit and that USSR might survive longer to the misery of its inhabitants- or as we can now see lots of trade with russia and china, but woe unto thee who wants to deal with a country that its leader just died cause they are commies].

    I predict like Leonard Susskind's attack on the event horizon idea of S hawking, that the investigation will provide some waiter friend of some obama supporter had a parking ticket the matter was discussed in the trunp tower of Babel and low and behold , evidence has been found. of total irrelevance. you say what evidence, they dont need no stinkin evidence.

    No impeachment!!!!! please it is a trick to get Pence in , which has been there goal all along. A nut vs a theocratic divine system believer, a true dogmatic ILK. True a risk, a dear leader vs a Ayatollah. This is like JEHOVAH punishing the jews with annihilation by the Assyrians or the Babylonians , take your pick, so he chose both.

    OUr allies are in a quandary, they know we have extra nukes , more than enough to destroy russia and/or china and/or several other bad guys and still light up their night skies. He the most divisive POTUS in history has made known you dont cross him, not that you cross the USA but him, as like Cyrus, the anointed one.

  • RobertBolt
    March 20, 2017 at 12:46 p.m.

    The Art of the Implosion