Comey asked DoJ to issue denial of FBI wiretapping Trump

FBI director James Comey asked the Department of Justice to issue a denial that President Trump was wiretapped before the 2016 presidential election.  The unusual request was made over the weekend after the president issued a series of tweets accusing the Obama administration of illegal surveillance of his campaign headquarters.

The Hill:

Senior American officials told The New York Times on Sunday that Comey has said the president's wiretapping allegations are not true and asked the Justice Department on Saturday to publicly correct the record. 

The report comes after President Trump, in a series of early Saturday tweets, claimed President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower.

The FBI and the DOJ declined to comment to the Times. 

Comey wants the Justice Department to deflate Trump's claim because there is no evidence to support it, the Times reported, and it insinuates that Comey's FBI broke the law, the officials told the paper. 

The president laid out the wiretapping claims without any evidence and questioned whether it was legal for a sitting president to be "'wire tapping' a race for president prior to an election."

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

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Sunday called the reports about "potentially politically motivated investigations" before the 2016 presidential election "very troubling."

In a series of tweets, he said the president is "requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigation powers were abused in 2016."

Spicer said that neither the White House nor the president would "comment further until such oversight is conducted."

An Obama spokesman said Saturday that Trump's accusations were false.

Why wouldn't Comey issue a denial himself?  The director is a senior Justice Department official and would presumably be in the know about any warrants issued to spy on the Trump campaign.  The Times story gives this explanation for Comey's request, including the notion that the claim "falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law."

In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau's credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public's expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia's efforts to disrupt the presidential election.

Mr. Comey has not been dealing directly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the matter, as Mr. Sessions announced on Thursday that he would recuse himself from any investigation of Russia's efforts to influence the election. It had been revealed on Wednesday that Mr. Sessions had misled Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

So Comey wanted a denial from outside the bureau to avoid the charge that any rejection of the Trump wiretapping allegation was self-serving. 

DoJ has so far failed to issue a statement of denial, which is not surprising, given the political hot potato Comey has dropped into their lap.  The career employees at Justice are passing the buck on taking responsibility for a denial while the political appointees for the Department are being blocked by Senate Democrats from taking office.  Quite literally, there's no one at Justice who wants the job of placing the department on the record that no such wiretapping took place.

Comey has managed to get both sides angry at him over the past year.  He failed to recommend indicting Hillary Clinton but then re-opened the investigation just days before the election.  Is this request for a statement a "betrayal" of Trump, as Drudge suggests in his headline ("Comey Turns on Trump")?  It is if you believe liberals who think Comey was in Trump's corner during the campaign.  Otherwise, this is an attempt by Comey to cover his own – and the FBI's – ass in the wiretapping matter.

FBI director James Comey asked the Department of Justice to issue a denial that President Trump was wiretapped before the 2016 presidential election.  The unusual request was made over the weekend after the president issued a series of tweets accusing the Obama administration of illegal surveillance of his campaign headquarters.

The Hill:

Senior American officials told The New York Times on Sunday that Comey has said the president's wiretapping allegations are not true and asked the Justice Department on Saturday to publicly correct the record. 

The report comes after President Trump, in a series of early Saturday tweets, claimed President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower.

The FBI and the DOJ declined to comment to the Times. 

Comey wants the Justice Department to deflate Trump's claim because there is no evidence to support it, the Times reported, and it insinuates that Comey's FBI broke the law, the officials told the paper. 

The president laid out the wiretapping claims without any evidence and questioned whether it was legal for a sitting president to be "'wire tapping' a race for president prior to an election."

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

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Sunday called the reports about "potentially politically motivated investigations" before the 2016 presidential election "very troubling."

In a series of tweets, he said the president is "requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigation powers were abused in 2016."

Spicer said that neither the White House nor the president would "comment further until such oversight is conducted."

An Obama spokesman said Saturday that Trump's accusations were false.

Why wouldn't Comey issue a denial himself?  The director is a senior Justice Department official and would presumably be in the know about any warrants issued to spy on the Trump campaign.  The Times story gives this explanation for Comey's request, including the notion that the claim "falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law."

In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau's credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public's expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia's efforts to disrupt the presidential election.

Mr. Comey has not been dealing directly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the matter, as Mr. Sessions announced on Thursday that he would recuse himself from any investigation of Russia's efforts to influence the election. It had been revealed on Wednesday that Mr. Sessions had misled Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

So Comey wanted a denial from outside the bureau to avoid the charge that any rejection of the Trump wiretapping allegation was self-serving. 

DoJ has so far failed to issue a statement of denial, which is not surprising, given the political hot potato Comey has dropped into their lap.  The career employees at Justice are passing the buck on taking responsibility for a denial while the political appointees for the Department are being blocked by Senate Democrats from taking office.  Quite literally, there's no one at Justice who wants the job of placing the department on the record that no such wiretapping took place.

Comey has managed to get both sides angry at him over the past year.  He failed to recommend indicting Hillary Clinton but then re-opened the investigation just days before the election.  Is this request for a statement a "betrayal" of Trump, as Drudge suggests in his headline ("Comey Turns on Trump")?  It is if you believe liberals who think Comey was in Trump's corner during the campaign.  Otherwise, this is an attempt by Comey to cover his own – and the FBI's – ass in the wiretapping matter.

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