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There is no indication that Trump Tower was “the subject of surveillance” by the U.S. government before or after the 2016 election, the top two members of the Senate intelligence committee said Thursday, directly contradicting President Donald Trump’s claims.
“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,” Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a one-sentence joint statement Thursday afternoon.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the senators’ statement.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president stands by his claims. He suggested the lawmakers’ statements were made without a full review of the evidence or a briefing from the Justice Department.
“They are not findings,” he said.
Burr and Warner were among eight senior congressional leaders briefed Friday by FBI Director James Comey. A Senate aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the senators’ private briefings, said Burr and Warner would not have made the statement without being fully briefed on the matter. The aide said Spicer is wrong.
The senators joined a growing, bipartisan group of lawmakers who have since publicly disputed Trump’s accusation, which was made in a series of tweets more than two weeks ago.
The president accused former President Barack Obama of tapping the phones at his New York skyscraper and compared the incident to Watergate.
Trump, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, said he’d learned about the alleged wiretapping from news reports referencing intercepted communications, despite the fact that he and his advisers have publicly denounced stories about government agencies reviewing contacts between Trump associates and Russians.
Trump said there would be “some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin pushed back on the accusations as well.
“We’ve cleared that up,” Ryan said, adding that he’d received a briefing and seen no evidence of Trump’s wiretap claims.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had not given Trump any reason to believe he was wiretapped by President Obama. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he had seen no information to support the claim and then went further. He suggested the U.S. president’s assertion, made in a series of March 4 tweets, should not be taken at face value.
“Are you going to take the tweets literally?” Nunes said. “If so, clearly the president was wrong.”
In response to Trump’s claims and a request from the House intelligence committee, the Justice Department is doing its own review of whether Trump or any of his associates were the subject of surveillance.
Burr and Warner are leading one of three congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether Trump associates were in contact with the Kremlin.
Comey is slated to testify Monday before the House intelligence committee.
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