U.S. President Donald Trump asked Congress to investigate his claim that the Obama administration wiretapped his phones during the 2016 election. But a U.S. official said the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute the claim.
In a statement on Sunday, the president’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, said the administration “is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
Spicer said, “neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”
Several American news organizations, including The New York Times and the Associated Press, reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has asked the Justice Department to dispute the president's claim. The news reports quoted an unnamed U.S. official.
The FBI and the Justice Department -- the government agencies that would investigate Russian activity in the election -- did not make any official statements.
James Clapper was the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the Obama administration. On Sunday, he told NBC News' Meet the Press program, “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect [Donald Trump] at the time, or as a candidate or against his campaign.”
“Absolutely, I can deny it,” Clapper said.
Controversy started with presidential tweets
Early Saturday morning, Trump said on Twitter that he “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” The president did not provide evidence for his accusation. He compared the actions of the Obama administration to Watergate, the political scandal that led to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1974.
Kevin Lewis is a spokesman for Obama. In a statement on Saturday, he said neither “President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.” Lewis said no Obama official “ever interfered with any investigation led by the Justice Department.”
The Russian question
Trump has dealt with questions about his campaign’s possible ties to Russia since before the election. While Obama was president, American intelligence agencies said Russia had interfered in the election to help Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Last week, it was reported that Sergei Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, had met at Trump Tower in New York in December with Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn.
Kushner is an advisor to the president. He is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Michael Flynn is a retired army general. He was the president’s first national security advisor and was forced to leave the position after 24 days. Flynn admitted that he had given officials “incomplete information” about his phone conversations with Kislyak.
Hope Hicks is a spokeswoman for President Trump. She said the meetings at Trump Tower were held to “establish a line of communication” between Trump aides and the Russian ambassador. She said Kushner met with representatives from many countries.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would not take part in any investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. Sessions was a member of the Senate during the campaign. He strongly supported Trump.
During a hearing called by senators to ask questions before they decided if they would approve his appointment as attorney general, Sessions said he had not met with Russian officials. But he later admitted that he had met with Kislyak twice during the presidential campaign.
Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English based on reporting from VOA and the Associated Press. Christopher Cruise was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and visit us on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
wiretap - v. to place a device on someone's phone in order to secretly listen to telephone calls
oversight - n. the act of overseeing something or someone. Congressional oversight gives the U.S. Congress the ability to review and monitor federal agencies, programs, activities and policy implementation