Trump's allies melt away on wiretapping claims

Thursday, March 16, 2017

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's explosive allegation Barack Obama wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the presidential campaign has left him increasingly isolated, with allies on Capitol Hill and within his own administration offering no evidence to back him.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had not given Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped by President Obama.

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he had seen no information to support the claim and then went further. He suggested the U.S. president's assertion, made in a series of March 4 tweets, should not be taken at face value.

"Are you going to take the tweets literally?" Nunes said. "If so, clearly, the president was wrong."

But Trump, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, predicted there would be "some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks."

Trump's allegations have put him in a potentially perilous position as congressional investigations into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election -- and possible Russian contacts with Trump associates -- ramp up. The FBI also is investigating.

If no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower emerges, his credibility would be damaged.

If there is proof the Obama administration approved monitoring of Trump or his associates, that would suggest the government had reason to be suspicious of their contacts with Russia and a judge had approved the surveillance.

The president has asked lawmakers to investigate the claim. Lawmakers since have turned the question back toward the administration, asking the Justice Department to provide evidence of wiretapping activity.

The Justice Department missed a Monday deadline for providing the information to the House and was given a one-week extension.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who heads the Judiciary Committee's crime and terrorism subcommittee, said the FBI will provide a classified briefing on the matter "at some time in the future."

Graham previously has said he would use subpoena power to get information from the FBI about whether a warrant was issued allowing the Obama administration to tap Trump's phones during the campaign.

Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone said Wednesday he believes his own online exchanges with a Russian-linked hacker were obtained through a special warrant that allows the government to collect the communications of people suspected of being agents of a foreign nation.

Stone communicated through Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker who has claimed responsibility for breaching the Democratic National Committee.

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