The White House on Sunday called for Congress to follow up on President Donald Trump’s explosive, unsubstantiated allegation that Barack Obama tapped his phone during last year’s election campaign.
Twenty-four hours after Trump’s incendiary claim about his predecessor, his aides scrambled to limit the political fallout — admitting it was still unproven and calling on Congress to investigate.
Citing undefined “reports” of “politically motivated investigations,” press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump was calling on Congress to “determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders echoed those comments.
“If this happened,” she told ABC, “this would be the greatest abuse of power, and overreach, that has ever occurred in the executive branch.”
Trump, who was taking “meetings and phone calls” at his golf course in West Palm Beach, Florida, has not publicly commented further on his allegations.
On Saturday, he tweeted: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” He provided no evidence to back up the claim.
Watergate is the generic term for the scandal that brought down president Richard Nixon in 1974. It began with the revelation of a secret wiretap in the offices of the Democratic National Committee at Washington’s Watergate Hotel.
Obama, via a spokesman, denied Trump’s new allegation as “simply false.”
US presidents can’t legally order such wiretaps, which require the approval of a federal judge and reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Obama’s director of national intelligence James Clapper told NBC there was “no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign.”