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White House Stands By Trump's Wiretap Accusation

| by Robert Fowler
White House press secretary Sean SpicerWhite House press secretary Sean Spicer

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the administration wants Congress to investigate President Donald Trump's accusation that his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, had ordered a wiretapping of his 2016 campaign.

On March 6, Spicer told reporters the White House believed that some surveillance had been done on the Trump presidential campaign but did not disclose whether it was carried out illegally or with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant.

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"I think that there's no question that something happened," Spicer said, according to The Guardian. "The question is, is it surveillance, is it a wiretap, or whatever?"

On March 4, Trump leveled a serious accusation against Obama on social media, asserting that the former president had ordered a wiretap of the Trump campaign during the presidential race.

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"Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory," Trump tweeted. "Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

The president has yet to offer any evidence to back up this accusation. It is illegal for a president to directly order a wiretap of the communications of a citizen, but wiretap can be carried out if a federal judge issues a FISA warrant if presented with evidence that justifies government surveillance.

Spicer told reporters the White House was unsure if the alleged wiretap had been issued legally or done illegally, but that the administration wanted Congress to carry out investigations into the accusation.

"It could be FISA, it could be surveillance ... I think the president made it clear yesterday that he wants Congress to go in and look at this," Spicer said.

On March 6, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News that Trump did not have to present evidence for his accusation to be true.

"He's the president of the United States," Conway said. "He has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not."

Before Trump wrote his tweet, the accusation that Obama had illegally wiretapped the Trump campaign was originally levied by conservative radio host Mark Levin and then expanded upon by Breitbart News. Reporters asked Spicer if Trump had made his accusation based on Levin's word or actual intelligence. The press secretary responded that the president "is not going to comment any further on this."

Following Trump's tweet, FBI Director James Comey had requested that the Department of Justice publicly rebut the accusation, asserting that it was not only without evidence but false. A source familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump's social media statement had left Comey "incredulous ... institutionally he has to push back on this."

Spicer told reporters that Comey and Trump had not spoken since the president issued his tweet.

Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis has issued a statement denying Trump's accusation.

"Neither [Obama] nor any [White House] official under Obama has ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen," Lewis said, noting that those decisions are decided internally within the DOJ. "Any suggestion is unequivocally false."

Sources: CNN (2), Donald J. Trump/Twitter, Fox News, The Guardian / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr