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FBI Director James Comey on Monday publicly refuted President Donald Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower before the 2016 election, saying neither he nor the Justice Department have evidence to back the president's explosive tweets.
"With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to assure you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components, " Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
It marks perhaps the strongest rebuke yet of Trump's allegations, which the bipartisan leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees said they have not seen evidence to support.
National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also testified Monday, said the U.S. did not ask Britain to spy on Trump. In defending Trump recently, White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited a Fox News analyst who alleged the key ally did so, prompting an angry rebuff from the intelligence agency GCHQ.
The White House has defended Trump's tweeted accusations even amid rebuttals from top congressional leaders and a key foreign ally. Despite Comey's public statement on behalf of the FBI and Justice Department, Spicer said that Trump has no plans to back away from the claim and suggested that all information may not yet be available.
Trump himself did not back down from the accusation as recently as Friday.
"On wiretapping by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a joint press conference. The NSA allegedly monitored phone calls involving Merkel and her aides, straining relations with Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Following Comey's rebuttal, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on him to "retract his claim immediately."
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, 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."
Spicer argued on 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.