Congress to probe Trump wiretap claim, FBI disputes it

Monday, 6 March, 2017 - 17:00

Key members of Congress say they will honour President Donald Trump’s request to investigate his unsubstantiated claim that Barack Obama overstepped his authority as president and had Trump’s telephones tapped during the election campaign.

A US official said the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute Trump’s allegation, though no such statement has been issued.

Obama’s intelligence director also said no such action was ever carried out.

Trump’s startling claim of presidential abuse of power, made without evidence in a series of tweets early on Saturday, capped a week in which the positive reaction to his address to Congress quickly evaporated amid the swirl of allegations — and revelations — about contacts between Trump aides and Russia’s ambassador to the US, both during and after a presidential election Russia is believed to have meddled in.

Trump is said to be frustrated by his senior advisers’ inability to tamp down the Russia issue. Compounding the situation was the revelation last week that former US senator and now Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, an early Trump campaign supporter, had met twice with the Russian official but didn’t disclose that to lawmakers when he was asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing.

The House and Senate intelligence committees, and the FBI, are investigating the contacts, and Trump demanded Sunday that they broaden the scope of their inquiries into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to include Obama’s potential abuse of his executive powers.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said in a statement that the panel “will follow the evidence where it leads, and we will continue to be guided by the intelligence and facts as we compile our findings.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the committee “will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party’s campaign officials or surrogates.”