The House Intelligence Committee did not reveal on Friday night the answer to the question of whether Justice Department documents substantiate President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by the Obama administration.
The committee had asked for copies of any warrants, applications or court orders relating to a wiretap of Trump or his surrogates and affiliates in advance of a Monday hearing at which the directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency are expected to testify about alleged connections between the Trump team and Russian authorities.
Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) avoided the big question by releasing a statement late Friday that said his panel is “satisfied” that Justice “has fully complied” with its request related to “possible surveillance” of Trump and his associates.
Nunes said the CIA and FBI had not yet provided information that was requested “that is necessary to determine whether information collected on U.S. persons was mishandled and leaked.”
He added that the NSA had “partially met our request” and pledged to fully meet it by the end of next week.
Trump set off a firestorm with his March 4 tweet that former president Barack Obama personally ordered the surveillance of the former GOP candidate’s Trump Tower campaign headquarters.
Since then, both Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, have gone back and forth over whether the president’s remarks were meant literally or encompassed surveillance activity more broadly. In a Thursday news conference, Spicer flatly stated that Trump “stands by” his wiretapping allegations, though no evidence had been produced by the White House to support the claim.
In a Fox News interview on Wednesday, Trump admitted he had no solid evidence that Obama ordered the wiretap, adding that he based his accusation on news reports that talked generally about wiretapping.
But the president maintained that information would be revealed in the coming days that could prove him right.
Nunes and other congressional leaders have expressed skepticism that Obama ordered surveillance of Trump during the presidential campaign.
“As of right now, I don’t have any evidence of any phone calls. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. . . . What I’ve been told by many folks is that there’s nothing there,” Nunes said Thursday.
The documents were delivered to the House Intelligence panel in preparation for Monday’s public hearing. Lawmakers have asked FBI Director James B. Comey to clarify whether the bureau is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and alleged links between the Trump team and Russian officials. Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are probing those matters, as well as Trump’s wiretapping allegations.
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders announced Friday that they would hold the first open hearing of their Russia probe March 30.
This week, House Intelligence Committee leaders requested a list of any individuals whose names were “unmasked” during surveillance activities focused elsewhere. Nunes and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam B. Schiff of California, sent the request to Comey, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was ousted last month after details surfaced about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office. (Flynn was officially asked to leave because he misled Vice President Pence about the contacts.) Although Flynn was not himself under surveillance, Kislyak was, and Flynn’s contacts came to light through “incidental collection.”
And this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Justice Department investigations pertaining to the Trump campaign after he was shown to have had two meetings with Kislyak that he had not previously publicly disclosed.