- The Washington Times
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

President Trump said Wednesday that he didn’t mean to suggest that President Obama actually tapped his phones, but he insisted that “some very interesting items” will be coming to back up his claim that the previous administration snooped on him and his campaign.

“‘Wiretap’ covers a lot of different things,” Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview. “I think you’re going find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

He gave no hint of what the evidence would be, but Mr. Trump and his aides have been trying to explain what he meant when he posted a series of Twitter messages this month accusing Mr. Obama of having his “wires tapped.”

Multiple congressional committees are probing the matter, and none of them has come up with any proof to back up the president’s assertion. Democrats say Mr. Trump was being irresponsible, while some Republicans say he shouldn’t be taken literally, and they hold out the possibility that there was some sort of surveillance — not necessarily phone taps — of members of the Trump team.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday ordered U.S. snooping agencies to reveal whether they did scoop up any intelligence on Mr. Trump or his campaign personnel last year, and if so, whether they illegally “unmasked” any of those people by publicly revealing their communications.

Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and the intelligence panel chairman, said there is evidence that crimes were committed in revealing communications between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

He said they want to find out whether anyone else was ensnared by intelligence collection.

“The committee is concerned that [U.S. persons’] identifiable information may have been mishandled in violation of approved minimization and dissemination procedures,” Mr. Nunes and Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said in a letter demanding answers from the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency.

They said they wanted information by Friday.

They have a public hearing scheduled for Monday, with NSA Director Michael Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey both having agreed to testify.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, demanded a public answer from Mr. Comey to their questions of whether anyone approved or carried out surveillance of the campaign.

Mr. Comey apparently offered a private briefing, but Mr. Whitehouse said that wasn’t good enough and that the public deserves answers on Mr. Trump’s startling claim. He said Congress is the right forum to hash out the matter.

“We are entitled to investigate under the Constitution,” he said.

He and Mr. Graham are using their positions on the Senate Judiciary Committee to probe the matter, joining investigations from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The probes stemmed from Russia’s reported efforts to try to sway the U.S. election. The Obama administration accused Russia of being complicit in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and helping leak the information to embarrass Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In recent months, questions have swirled around whether Mr. Trump or his campaign operatives were working with Russia. Mr. Nunes said he has seen no evidence of that, while Mr. Schiff said he wouldn’t make a categorical denial but declined to give more information at this point in the investigation.

He said the White House has given conflicting explanations for what Mr. Trump meant.

“I don’t think they have the foggiest idea what was behind the president’s claim,” he said.

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