Politics

Intel offers no proof of spying on Trump Tower

JUSTIN LANE/EPA/File

WASHINGTON — The Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday there was no proof in new documents provided to Congress by the Justice Department to support President Trump’s claim that his predecessor had ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower.

Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, the chairman, said on ‘‘Fox News Sunday’’ that there was never evidence of a physical wiretap of Trump Tower, and the information presented Friday did not provide any.

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‘‘There was no FISA warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump Tower,’’ he added, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a federal law that governs the issuance of search warrants in US intelligence gathering.

Representative Adam Schiff of California, the panel’s top Democrat, said, ‘‘We are at the bottom of this: There is nothing at the bottom.’’

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Nunes and Schiff spoke a day before his panel holds its first public hearing on alleged Russian attempts to interfere in last year’s presidential election, a subject that is certain to include discussion of contacts between Trump campaign figures and Russian operatives.

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned last month after it was revealed that he had privately discussed US sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington before Trump took office.

Schiff, speaking on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ said he expected FBI Director James B. Comey to testify clearly at the hearing that there is no factual basis for Trump’s wiretapping claims.

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‘‘I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the president said was just patently false,’’ the Democrat said. ‘‘It’s continuing to grow in terms of damage, and he needs to put an end to this.’’

The two House leaders did not agree, however, on whether the question of collusion between Trump campaign figures and Russian operatives has been settled.

Nunes said the new Justice Department documents, submitted in response to a congressional request, included ‘‘no evidence of collusion’’ to swing the election in Trump’s favor and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof that there was any active coordination.

The lawmaker said he remained primarily concerned about leaks of US surveillance of conversations between Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

‘‘That’s the only crime we know has been committed right now,’’ Nunes said.

But Schiff said there was ‘‘circumstantial evidence of collusion’’ at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as ‘‘direct evidence’’ that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

‘‘Of course, there’s one thing to say there’s evidence; there’s another thing to say we can prove this or prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ he said. ‘‘But there was certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.

‘There’s one thing to say there’s evidence; there’s another thing to say we can prove this or prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.’

Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California 
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“The American people have a right to know, and in order to defend ourselves, we need to know whether the circumstantial evidence of collusion and direct evidence of deception is indicative of more.’’

Trump last week refused to back down from his tweets on March 4 that claimed president Barack Obama ‘‘had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory’’ and compared it to McCarthyism and the Watergate scandal.

But no credible evidence has emerged to support those claims, and the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said last week that they have seen nothing that supports the allegation.

In a Fox News Channel interview on Thursday, Trump said, ‘‘I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.’’

Nunes said Trump could be referring to new information about whether intelligence officials ‘‘unmasked,’’ or identified, US citizens who were captured speaking with foreign officials who are under routine surveillance, a process governed by FISA. ‘‘That is very possible, and we don’t have the answers to those questions yet,’’ he said.

‘‘We had a deadline of Friday for the NSA, FBI, and CIA to get us those names that were unmasked through the FISA system. We didn’t get those names on Friday, and until we get those names, we can’t rule this out.’’

He added that Monday’s hearing was ‘‘just the beginning’’ and that he planned to continue looking into who revealed Flynn’s communications with Kislyak.

‘‘We’re trying to get to everyone who, for lack of a better term, was at the crime scene,’’ he said.

Trump remains under pressure from members of his own party to back off his claims of illegal wiretapping, particularly after the furor intensified last week when White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested British intelligence may have played a role in the surveillance. Spicer later apologized for the claim and explained that he had repeated an unverified media report.

Republican Senator Susan Collins said Trump needs to ‘‘explain to us on the Intelligence Committee and to the American people’’ his basis for the accusations. The moderate lawmaker from Maine spoke on NBC’s ‘‘Meet the Press.’’

On ABC’s ‘‘This Week,’’ a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee called on Trump to apologize for accusing Obama of ordering an illegal wiretap.

‘‘To quote my 85-year-old father. . . it never hurts to say you’re sorry,’’ said Representative Will Hurd of Texas, a former clandestine agent for the CIA. ‘‘I think it helps with our allies. We’ve got to make sure that we’re all working together. We live in a very dangerous world, and we can’t do this alone.’’

Hurd said that ‘‘some folks will probably be frustrated’’ by the hearing Monday because the officials set to testify, including Comey, might not be able to elaborate on investigative matters: ‘‘There may be an active investigation going on, a criminal investigation. And if there’s an active criminal investigation, we need to allow law enforcement. . . do their job.’’

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