Probe into Trump’s explosive phone-tapping claim

Probe into Trump’s explosive  phone-tapping claim
Ex-US President Barack Obama, right, with President Donald Trump on the West front of the US Capitol in Washington, in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 06 March 2017

Probe into Trump’s explosive phone-tapping claim

Probe into Trump’s explosive  phone-tapping claim

WASHINGTON: A Congressional committee announced Sunday that it will investigate President Donald Trump’s explosive and unsubstantiated claims that Barack Obama had his phone tapped during the 2016 election campaign, AFP reported.

Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, was careful not to mention Trump’s allegations, noting the investigation involves looking at “the US government’s response to actions taken by Russian intelligence agents during the presidential campaign.”

“The committee will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates,” he said, without specifically referring to the accusations.

Trump made his allegations in a string of tweets early Saturday morning, at one point calling former president Obama a “Bad (or sick) guy!” He did not provide any evidence to back up his claims.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told ABC that if the allegations were true “this would be the greatest abuse of power and overreach that has ever occurred in the executive branch.”

Obama, via a spokesman, has denied any allegation of wiretapping as “simply false.”

US presidents cannot legally order such wiretaps, which require the approval of a federal judge and reasonable grounds for suspicion, the spokesman said.

Obama’s director of national intelligence James Clapper told NBC on Sunday that there was “no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign.”

Twenty-four hours after Trump’s incendiary claim, his aide scrambled to limit the political fallout — admitting it was still unproven.

Trump’s first weeks in office got off to a shaky start as the White House has been besieged with leaks from government sources revealing that Trump’s advisers had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the presidential campaign.

Michael Flynn was forced to resign last month as Trump’s national security adviser after it was revealed that he had at least two contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. The president was also said to be angry that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any campaign or Russia-related investigations.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Trump’s allegations against Obama appeared to have been based on unverified claims made by the right-wing Breitbart News outlet and conservative talk radio hosts who claimed that secret warrants were issued to tap Trump’s phones. Breitbart offered no evidence that wiretapping took place at Obama’s request.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta accused Trump of diversionary tactics.

“They are trying to obfuscate and trying to cover up. They are trying to somehow raise other issues,” he told CBS. “In the end, it is going to be the truth that will determine what is involved here, and not tweets, but the truth.”

Republicans have largely stood behind the president, hoping he will enact tax cuts and other policies they favor.

But some Republican lawmakers appear to be losing patience with the drama of Trump’s presidency.

“We are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust,” said Sen. Ben Sasse.