Senior Republican calls on president to prove extraordinary allegation that his predecessor tapped phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign
Senior Republican John McCain has told Donald Trump to either present evidence proving Barack Obama was involved in wiretapping his phones or retract the claim.
McCain’s demand came after the House intelligence committee asked the president for evidence that phones at Trump Tower were tapped during the campaign.
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“I think the president has one of two choices: either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve, because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here to say the least,” McCain said.
Trump asserted in a tweet last week: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” He continued the allegation against Obama in other tweets but offered no evidence.
The committee’s request for evidence by Monday was made in a letter sent to the justice department by the House committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, a senior congressional aide said on Saturday. The aide wasn’t authorised to discuss the request by name and requested anonymity.
Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has said that nothing matching Trump’s claims took place. Despite the denial, Trump has asked Congress to investigate.
During the past week, Schiff said the committee would answer the president’s call to investigate the claim. He also said he would ask the FBI director, James Comey, directly when he appears later this month before the full committee, which is investigating Russian activities during the election.
On Sunday, Schiff said he doubted there was any evidence of wiretapping but that Comey and others called to testify at the upcoming hearing “would be in a position to have to know”.
“I think on March 20 if not before we’ll be able to put this to rest,” Schiff told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. “I don’t think anyone has any question about this, George. The only question is why the president would make up such a thing.”
McCain said Trump could “clear this up in a minute” if he were to call “the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence and say, ‘OK, what happened?’”
The president had an obligation to provide evidence that Obama broke the law or retract his claim, the Arizona Republican said.
“I do believe on issues such as this, accusing a former president of the United States of something which is not only illegal, but just unheard of, that requires corroboration. I’ll let the American people be the judge, but this is serious stuff,” McCain said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to the president, said on Sunday on Fox News Channel’s MediaBuzz that the House and Senate intelligence committees had agreed to investigate and “we’ll make a comment after those findings are complete”.
Nunes has said that so far he has not seen any evidence to back up Trump’s claim and has suggested the news media were taking the president’s weekend tweets too literally.
“The president is a neophyte to politics — he’s been doing this a little over a year,” Nunes told reporters this past week.
The president is a neophyte to politics.
Other lawmakers also have asked for evidence.
Declaring that Congress “must get to the bottom” of Trump’s claim, senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse asked Comey and the acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, to produce the paper trail created when the justice department’s criminal division secures warrants for wiretaps.