The Department of Justice was given until Monday to provide any evidence the department had to support claims by President Trump that his predecessor, President Obama, had wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election season. Unfortunately, the deadline came and went. The DOJ has asked the House Intelligence Committee for more time to gather the information.
On Friday, House Intelligence Committee Chairs Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) had formally requested that the Justice Department turn over any documentary evidence, including applications, orders or warrants, by Monday, assuming such information exists.
“This afternoon, the Department of Justice placed calls to representatives of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
On March 4, President Trump tweeted a claim that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the election. Since then, there has been an ongoing investigation to find any evidence that supports his accusation.
The morning after Trump’s tweet, Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” Sanders, who is Trump’s principal deputy press secretary, was asked about the tweet’s intention. She replied, “Look, I think he is going off of information that he’s saying that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.”
The tweet prompted many politicians, both Republicans and Democrats alike, to demand proof or retraction of the president’s statement. To clear up the matter, the House Intelligence Committee gave the DOJ a deadline to find the proof. Even though the committee gave the DOJ the task, it didn’t calm any of the officials that disagree with the claims.
One of the most prominent voices in the opposition comes from Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was also a presidential candidate in 2008. McCain has been vocal about his lack of support for all things Trump for quite some time.
“I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the President of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” Sen. John McCain said this past weekend during an appearance on “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper. He urged Trump to at least call the CIA for clarification. “All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence and say, ‘OK, what happened?’”
FBI Director James Comey has also spoken out against Trump’s claim. Fearing the allegation would make the FBI look bad, Comey had his staff reach out to the DOJ and urged them to knock down the claim made by President Trump. As time goes on, and the DOJ continues the search for information, Comey finds himself on a mission of his own. He is working to create an appropriate channel for the FBI and DOJ to release a joint statement to say the allegations are not true.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Trump must have evidence of his wiretap claims, and Comey, who he considers to be a close friend, should turn the allegations over to “an investigative arm” to get to the truth of what happened.
“[James] Comey is an honorable guy,” Kelly said. “And so is the President of the United States. And the President must have his reasons.”
McCain and Comey are joined by other Republicans, like Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Gowdy, who is known for his part in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi scandal, also expressed regret that President Trump tweeted such serious allegations without any evidence at the time. Gowdy has said he needs evidence to make an informed conclusion, but did note that if Obama did in fact order surveillance of Trump and his allies via The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, Congress would be able to easily follow the “paper trail.”
“I need witnesses, I need documents,” Gowdy said.
Gowdy explained that any such action taken by a sitting president would have a record. He also pointed out that the Trump administration is in charge now, and has access to the necessary information. The administration, according to Gowdy, can simply turn over any information they have to support the president’s claim.
In an effort to help bring clarity and information to the situation, as well as an attempt to undermine the former president, Wikileaks has released a series of documents. They proved Obama had a history of spying on foreign leaders – both enemies and allies – in the past, causing Trump’s claim to gain traction among people who were listening.
Wikileaks took to Twitter to expose the documents. The tweet read: “Obama has a history of tapping & hacking his friends and rivals.”
The documents show proof that Obama had called on his administration to spy on leaders all over the world. He continued to tap German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone after she took office, a process that lasted over a decade. Even though the original mission of gathering intel was complete, Obama chose to continue the wiretapping to ensure her complete cooperation in foreign affairs.
Obama also intercepted telegraph cables to retrieve information from an ongoing discussion between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The information gathered was in regards to Italy trying to assist Israel in mending Netanyahu’s rocky relationship with Obama.
Obama and his allies have adamantly denied the accusations made by Trump, but have not yet released any statement in reply to the Wikileaks information.
A House Intelligence Committee spokesperson confirmed the DOJ’s request for more time. The committee has set a new deadline of March 20. That is the same day as the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russia’s influence in the U.S. elections.
“We have asked the Department to provide us this information before the Committee’s open hearing scheduled for March 20,” a House Intelligence Committee spokesperson said. “If the Committee does not receive a response by then, the Committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered.”