Trump's wiretap claim: 'No evidence'

James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), testifies during a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing concerning Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election, on Capitol Hill.
James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), testifies during a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing concerning Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election, on Capitol Hill.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • Neither the Department of Justice nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation had evidence to support a claim by US President Donald Trump that his Trump Tower headquarters had been wiretapped during the 2016 election campaign, FBI director James Comey said.

"With respect to the President's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets," Mr Comey told a House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday.

"And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components: The department has no information that supports those tweets," he added.

Mr Comey was testifying before the House committee along with National Security Agency (NSA) head Mike Rogers.

Admiral Rogers strongly rebutted the suggestion, repeated by the Trump administration, that the NSA had asked Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency to spy on Mr Trump.

"That would be expressly against the construct of the five- eyes agreement that has been in place for decades," he told the hearing, referring to the intelligence network grouping the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The combined remarks were perhaps the strongest on-record repudiation yet by senior government officials of the President's extraordinary accusation against his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama.

In a tweet on March 4, Mr Trump alleged that Mr Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped, a claim denied by Obama administration officials.

At the start of yesterday's hearing, Representative Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also rejected the wiretapping claims, saying: "Let me be clear: We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower."

The House panel's top Democrat, Mr Adam Schiff, said on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday that a classified dossier from the Justice Department delivered on Friday showed "no evidence to support the President's claim", so "I hope we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the President said was patently false".

In a tweet yesterday, Mr Trump said Congress instead should be investigating leaks that have harmed his young administration.

"The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of classified information," he said in a Twitter post.

"Must find leaker now!"

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's wiretap claim: 'No evidence''. Print Edition | Subscribe