An official from the Department of Justice declined to confirm or deny whether or not President Donald Trump was or continues to be the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. The lack of disclosure arrives after Trump accused his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, of ordering a wiretap of his 2016 campaign.
On March 4, Trump ignited controversy when he took to social media to accuse Obama of ordering surveillance of his presidential campaign before the 2016 election.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory," Trump tweeted out. "Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
The White House has yet to produce evidence to back up the president's accusation. It would have been illegal if Obama had directly ordered a wiretap of the Trump campaign, but the FBI could have surveilled Trump Tower if they had successfully sought a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to NPR.
FISA warrants can be approved by a federal judge if they are provided with compelling evidence that the surveillance target has committed a serious crime.
On March 9, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the administration had no reason to believe that Trump was being investigated by the FBI or DOJ.
"I just want to be really clear on one point, which is that there is no reason that we have to think that the president is the target of any investigation whatsoever," Spicer said, according to CBS News. "There's no reason to believe that he is the target of any investigation. I think that's a very important point to make."
That same morning, a DOJ official who had requested anonymity, told The New York Times that their agency had not provided the Trump administration with any assurance that there was no investigation.
When asked whether or not Trump was not being investigated for a counterintelligence crime, the official replied "No comment."
When asked by reporters if the DOJ had told the White House that there was no investigation, Spicer responded "I said I'm not aware and I'm not aware, and that's why we want the House and Senate to do what the president has asked of them to look into this, but no we're not aware."
After the press conference, a source close to Obama told NBC News that the former president "rolled his eyes" in response to Trump's wiretapping accusation. The source asserted that Obama did not feel that his personal integrity was being assaulted because "he didn't do it."
FBI Director James Comey has requested that the DOJ publicly refute Trump's accusation that Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. The agency has has not issued any official statement on the matter.