President Trump’s top aides are backing his unsupported claim that former President Obama ordered wiretaps on his campaign headquarters in Trump Tower. The White House says FBI director James Comey should also back up the president, even though Comey asked the Justice Department to deny the allegation.
Almost three days after senior FBI officials asked the Justice Department to publicly reject the president’s claim, the silence is deafening. The DOJ hasn’t said a word, increasing the tension between the White House and the FBI, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.
“I have not seen anything, aside from another report based on anonymous sources, that that actually happened,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said. “I’m not aware that that occurred. I don’t think that we’re aware that that occurred.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, said: “I won’t discuss any intelligence conversations that the president has with his intelligence communities on any matter.”
Conway would not divulge where the president was getting his information, but reiterated Mr. Trump’s assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped, and the FBI director should tell the public.
“We all know Director Comey is not shy and that he’s willing to speak publicly when he feels that he should and wants to,” Conway said.
Still the administration has offered no evidence, and Comey took the unusual step of asking the Justice Department to publicly refute the claims. Law enforcement sources say Comey was angered by the president’s tweets for falsely implying agents had broken the law by wiretapping U.S. citizens.
It is the latest sign of a strain in the relationship between the director and the president. Just last month it was revealed that the FBI declined a request from the White House to push back on reports of contact between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
“An FBI director cannot stand in this type of conflict with a president for very long,” legal scholar Jonathan Turley said.
Turley said tension between Comey and the president is a politically dangerous situation for both men.
“You have an executive branch that seems at odds with itself. You have a president who is asking another branch to investigate his branch,” Turley said. “You have an FBI director who is asking another department to correct the president publicly. That’s all putting us in rather uncharted and uneasy waters.”
The president has asked Congress to look into the alleged wiretapping. On Monday night, Sen. John McCain joined the chorus of lawmakers saying the charge is very serious, and Mr. Trump should release whatever evidence he has to the American people.