Donald Trump backtracking on those wiretap accusations is awkward even by his standards


Earlier this month, United States President Donald Trump claimed that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by his predecessor.

He did so while supplying no evidence, comparing President Barack Obama to Richard Nixon and labelling him a "bad (or sick) guy".

Since Mr Trump made those claims, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer rowed back on the allegations, saying that the President didn't mean to say exactly what he said:

I think there's no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election.

The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.

The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, a Republican, has said that the committee has not found any evidence to support President Trumps claims, originally thought to have been sourced from a Breitbart news story.

Nunes said:

We don’t have any evidence that took place. I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.

He later said:

Are you going to take the tweets literally? If you are, clearly the president is wrong.

He added that he thought it was "very possible" that Trump or another White House staff may have been observed as part of surveillance targeting foreign nationals on US soil.

Even Donald Trump has backpedalled on his claims, in his first interview since the tweets.

He explained to Fox News' Tucker Carlson what provoked his claims:

I had been reading about things.

I read, I think it was January 20th in a New York Times article about wiretapping.

There was an article, I think they used that exact term.

I read other things.

When asked why he didn't go immediately to the intelligence community, rather than Twitter, he replied:

I don’t want to do anything to violate any strength of an agency.

And by the way, I just want people to know the CIA was hacked and a lot of things were taken.

That was during the Obama years, that was not us, that was during the Obama situation.

We're not sure what the intelligence community would say to that answer.

The New York Times article that Trump appears to be referencing, actually doesn't say Trump was wiretapped, nor does it say he was by his predecessor.

It actually reports that law enforcement were examining intercepted communications between Russian officials and associates of President Trump, as part of a counterintelligence investigation against Russian interests interfering in the US election.

The Times themselves report:

The Times did not report that Mr. Trump was the target of any surveillance, even though that notion has gained currency on right-wing websites, including some that traffic in conspiracy theories.

Democrats have threatened to hold up the deputy attorney general's nomination until Congress receives more information from the FBI about the Trump campaign investigation.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina joined in the threat:

We’ll hold up the deputy attorney general’s nomination until Congress is provided with information to finally clear the air as to whether or not there was ever a warrant issued against the Trump campaign.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the House Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, said Wednesday that Trump should explain himself if he finds no evidence to explain his claim:

You can’t level an accusation of that type without retracting it or explaining just why it was done.


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