Pressure builds on Trump to back off
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[March 20, 2017]
By Emily Stephenson and Caren Bohan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers from
both parties said on Sunday they had seen no proof to support the claim
by Republican President Donald Trump that his predecessor Barack Obama
had wiretapped him last year, adding pressure on Trump to explain or
back off his repeated assertion.
Several Republicans last week urged Trump to apologize for the
allegations he made in a series of tweets on March 4. The maelstrom also
caused tension with key U.S. allies and threatens to distract
Republicans from campaign promises on health care and taxes.
"I don't know the basis for President Trump's assertion," U.S. Senator
Susan Collins, a Republican, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I do
believe he owes us that explanation."
Collins said she supported Trump as president, but she wouldn't side
with him if he "misstated what the facts are."
FBI Director James Comey is expected to be asked about Trump's claims
when he testifies at a rare public hearing on Monday about alleged
Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Russia has denied
the assertion it was involved in hacked emails and other attempts to
influence the race.
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee holding the hearing, called Trump's claims "patently false"
and said he expected Comey to say as much on Monday.
The Justice Department on Friday delivered documents to congressional
committees to help clear up whether the Obama administration spied on
Republican Representative Devin Nunes, who leads the House intelligence
panel, said after receiving the material, he saw no evidence of
But Nunes, who served on Trump's transition team, joined the White House
in seeking to shift attention away from the controversies by calling for
investigations of leaks to the news media.
Nunes said on "Fox News Sunday" that leaks to reporters about former
Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn were criminal and that his
panel was probing whether other names were leaked.
Trump has been dogged by allegations that his associates had ties to
Russian officials. He fired Flynn last month after reports he had
discussed sanctions with Russia's ambassador before Trump took office,
without telling other White House officials.
"The one crime we know that's been committed is that one: the leaking of
someone's name," Nunes said. "Were there any other names that were ...
[to top of second column]
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) gives U.S. President Donald
Trump a look after he suggested they might have something in common,
as he answered a question about his accusation that he had been
wiretapped by former President Barack Obama, during their joint news
conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S.,
March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Nunes also said ahead of Monday's hearing he had seen "no evidence"
of collusion between Russia and Trump's team. But Schiff, the
panel's top Democrat, said there was enough "circumstantial
evidence" that he still had questions.
NOT BACKING DOWN
Meanwhile, the White House has not backed down on Trump's
The administration was forced to reassure key ally Britain after
White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated a Fox News
analyst's claim that a British intelligence agency helped Obama
wiretap Trump. The British government strongly denied it.
The issue led to an awkward moment on Friday at a joint press
conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel when Trump
was asked about the wiretap claims by a German reporter.
Trump said he and Merkel had "something in common," apparently
referring to reports during the Obama administration that Merkel's
phone was bugged. The quip left the German leader looking
Senior Republican Representative Tom Cole told reporters on Friday
that Trump owed Obama an apology. Representatives Charlie Dent and
Will Hurd, also Republicans, made similar comments.
"I see no indication that that's true," Cole said of the wiretapping
Unless Trump produces convincing proof, Cole added, "President Obama
is owed an apology."
(Reporting By Emily Stephenson and Caren Bohan; Editing by Phil
Berlowitz and Jeffrey Benkoe)
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