White House says Trump 'stands by' wiretapping claim after congressional rebuttals

Spicer spars over Trump's wiretap allegation
Spicer spars over Trump's wiretap allegation

An agitated Sean Spicer on Thursday defended President Donald Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped him, reading a barrage of news reports to try to back up the accusation even after top lawmakers on congressional intelligence committees refuted it.

The White House press secretary was asked if the president "still stands by his allegation that President Obama ordered wiretapping or surveillance on Trump Tower."

"He stands by it," Spicer told reporters, suggesting that investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees may not have yielded all relevant information, yet.

On Thursday, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said they did not have evidence to support Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped him ahead of the 2016 U.S. election.

"Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," the statement by Republican Chairman Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee's Democratic vice chairman, said.

The top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday they did not have evidence to support the wiretapping accusation. GOP Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he did not "think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower." However, he said that applies if Trump literally meant he was wiretapped.

 A Congressional Intelligence panel wants answers on Trump's wiretapping allegations
A Congressional Intelligence panel wants answers on Trump's wiretapping allegations

The White House and its allies in recent days have attempted to change the interpretation of Trump's explosive tweets from earlier this month. In four separate statements on Twitter, Trump said he was the target of a wiretap.

In two of those, Trump put quotes around the term, which Spicer said means he may not have meant it literally. Still, in one of those tweets, Trump called it a "fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October."

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

Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

Spicer argued Thursday that Trump referred to "broad surveillance," not a physical wiretap. He contended that reporters have focused too much on the president's accusation, which he made without citing evidence, and not statements denying that Trump campaign officials had ties with Russian officials.

The press secretary spent minutes reading verbatim from reports from The New York Times, Fox News and other media outlets about U.S. investigations related to Russia and the 2016 election. However, none of those appeared to confirm that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower.

Spicer said he believes Trump will be vindicated. Trump said in a Fox News interview Wednesday that "you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks" related to the accusation, without saying specifically what those are.

FBI Director James Comey may give a more definitive answer about Trump's accusations when he testifies at a public House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday. The hearing is related to the committee's ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.