The Justice Department this evening asked the House Intelligence Committee for more time to produce evidence that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped then-candidate Donald Trump’s office during the 2016 campaign.
Today was the deadline for the Department of Justice to turn over to the committee any evidence to support Trump’s unsubstantiated claim, via Twitter, that Obama ordered Trump Tower phones tapped.
DOJ’s request was granted, but it must cough up answers before the March 20 hearing during which the House Intelligence Committee is holding its public session from leading intelligence officials to talk about Russia’s influence on the election. If they don’t have the information by then, the committee might subpoena members of the Trump administration.
“Apparently we are in the business of creating scripts for Saturday Night Live. I don’t even know where the satire begins,” exasperated committee member Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) told CNN. “These are extraordinarily serious allegations about the former president and our entire system. To think that you would even begin to make that kind of allegation without the proof in front of you is an extraordinary affront to the entire democratic system.”
Nine days ago, Trump made the accusations in a series of tweets, calling Obama a “bad (or sick) guy!”
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
On deadline day, at his press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had begun walking back Trump’s claim:
Trump “does not really think that President Obama went up and tapped [Trump’s] phone personally,” he said at today’s White House briefing, “but there is no question the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election.”
But various media outlets insisted after the briefing there were not widespread reports of such surveillance and other activities, though there were some reports in some far-right media outlets.
“At some point in time they have to stop this charade,” Quigley said, noting his committee would have to expand its request to include “household appliances.” Over the weekend, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked if she had proof Obama wiretapped Trump’s office and responded: “What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other. … You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways,” including “microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding, “We know this is a fact of modern life.”