Trump Calls For Congressional Inquiry Into Unproved Obama Wire-Tap Allegations
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's been another day of tweets and allegations by President Donald Trump. President Trump today asked Congress to investigate his predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Trump is accusing President Obama of having his phones at Trump Tower wiretapped in the last few months of last year's presidential campaign. Mr. Trump has not provided any evidence this occurred. And President Obama, through his representatives, has strongly denied the allegations. And late this evening, NPR has learned that FBI director James Comey has asked the Department of Justice to publicly deny President Trump's allegation that Mr. Obama had ordered a wiretap of him. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith who's following the president in Florida this weekend is here once again to tell us more. Tam, thanks so much for joining us.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be back with you.
MARTIN: Now, this all started quite early yesterday morning with a series of tweets from President Trump, but there had been no other communication from the White House about this for some 24 hours. Then what happened?
KEITH: Well, then the Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement. He says that reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. He says President Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity that congressional intelligence committees look into this. And then he says neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.
MARTIN: Now, this is a very serious charge that the president is making. What evidence has the White House produced so far to support this other than these so-called reports?
KEITH: Well, none. And this statement that was released really raises more questions than it answers. Sarah Sanders, who is the principal deputy press secretary, was on ABC's "This Week." She was on this morning, and she was asked about the evidence and where the president was getting this from.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")
SARAH SANDERS: 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.
KEITH: Very real potential is very different from what the president said in his tweets, which was basically making it seem like it was a fact. And what we have here is an example of sort of a cycle that has occurred a few times in this presidency where the president says something or tweets something that is explosive and an allegation, and then the White House is unable to provide evidence to back that up. And then the White House or the president calls for an investigation.
MARTIN: So what has been the reaction on Capitol Hill so far about this?
KEITH: Devin Nunes is the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House. He says that they will wrap it into the investigation that they're already conducting. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is a Republican, was on CNN. He said he had no idea what the president is talking about and that the president would have to explain it. And Senator Susan Collins, who is a Republican from Maine, said on CBS that it would be more helpful if the president would turn over to the intelligence community any evidence that he has.
MARTIN: Now, President Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was on NBC's "Meet The Press" today. He was serving in that role at the time of the alleged wiretap. What did he have to say about all this?
KEITH: And he is someone who, in theory, would have been involved in requesting that sort of surveillance. That's - the director of national intelligence would be one of the people who would, in theory, know about this. And he said that he hadn't heard of anything like this.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")
JAMES CLAPPER: There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.
MARTIN: And as you alluded to earlier, the president's putting all of this out in the wake of a bad week for his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from any investigations involving the presidential campaign. What happens now?
KEITH: Well, Sessions is expected to correct his Senate testimony in writing at some point soon, making it clear that he did actually meet with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, even though he initially said under oath that he hadn't had contact with the Russians during the campaign.
Democrats are still calling for him to go further and resign from his position. And Democrats are saying that this weekend is just more proof that a truly independent investigation into Russian meddling in the election, into any possible contacts between presidential campaigns and Russia, that a truly independent investigation needs to be done, one that is outside of both Congress and the Trump administration.
MARTIN: NPR's Tamara Keith has been covering the president in Florida this weekend. Tam, thank you.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.