WASHINGTON – The House Intelligence Committee chairman said Monday there was no physical evidence of a wiretap of Trump Tower, but he strongly implied investigators were looking into the possibility that the Trump presidential campaign had indeed been put under surveillance.
“Let me be clear, I’ve been saying this for several weeks: We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., at the start of the “Open Hearing on Russian Active Measures Investigation.”
President Trump has charged the Obama administration spied on his presidential campaign.
The president has come under withering criticism from the press and Democrats to provide proof of his claim, even though, as WND has reported, the White House has pointed out the media itself has published numerous accounts of such surveillance.
During Friday’s daily White House press briefing, CNN’s Jim Acosta even demanded, “Why can’t we just end this farce and just have the president say he was wrong?”
That was despite the fact that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer provided an epic eight-minute recitation of media accounts documenting government surveillance on the Trump campaign, primarily from reporting by the New York Times.
No vote tampering
In his opening statement, FBI Director James Comey said it was the bureau’s practice not to comment on ongoing investigations, but having been given a special exemption by the Department of Justice, he could publicly confirm the existence of an inquiry into whether there was Russian interference in the election.
However, both Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers confirmed that no Russian activities had any effect on any actual votes in the presidential election.
Nunes asked Rogers if he had “any evidence that Russian actors changed vote tallies” in the six key battleground states of series of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.
Rogers answered “no” when asked about each state.
Nunes then turned to Comey and asked, “Do you have any evidence that the FBI that any votes were changed in the states I mentioned to Adm. Rogers?””
“No,” Comey replied.
An excuse for running a terrible campaign’
On Monday morning, the president accused Democrats of making up claims that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and he said Congress and the FBI should be investigating the leaks and Democrats.
Trump tweeted: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!”
The president also said: “The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!”
And, the president tweeted, “What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians?”
Comey withholding info?
The White House is now saying Comey is not telling everything he knows about surveillance on Trump’s team.
A tweet sent Monday from the official White House Twitter account read, “FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.”
The tweet included a video from Monday’s hearing of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asking Comey whether he had briefed Obama on the Flynn calls.
Flynn is the former national security adviser who was ousted after not telling Vice President Mike Pence details of his calls with the Russian ambassador.
President Trump has said Flynn did nothing wrong in having those discussions, other than failing to be fully candid with Pence.
On his radio show Monday, Rush Limbaugh said the real purpose of the hearing was a warning to Trump from establishment Republicans to let them run the government or face impeachment.
“There are conservative Never-Trumpers today celebrating over the fact that Comey made it official that there’s an investigation of Trump and colluding with the Russians,” asserted Limbaugh.
“These people know that there isn’t any evidence of this, but that doesn’t matter,” he continued. “What everybody in Washington supports is the smearing, the slander, and the libel of Donald Trump. And these hearings today? The FBI director, James Comey, is trying to save the jobs of a lot of people.”
“So the objective is that Trump either stops this reform business he’s got, stops this drain-the-swamp stuff, and starts letting the Washington Republicans run the town again, or they’re gonna impeach him,” said the conservative icon.
“That’s the message being sent today: ‘You either straighten up and fly right or you’re gone. We’re coming for you,’ is the message of these hearings today,” concluded Limbaugh.
Listen to Limbaugh’s comments:
FBI looking for evidence of crimes
Nunes stated three committee goals at the beginning of the hearing:
- Determine if there was any Russian meddling in the 2016 election campaign.
- Find out if there were contacts between any campaign officials and Russian officials.
- Discover who leaked classified information about surveillance to the press.
The investigation is specifically looking into whether or not there were any links between the Russian government and election campaigns, and if there was any coordination. The FBI is also assessing whether any crimes were committed.
But Comey could not make any public comments concerning who was under investigation and for what.
The director said congressional leaders have been briefed on their findings so far, but he could not comment on those conclusions publicly. He asked those watching the hearing to draw no conclusions when he replied to questions on which he could not comment.
Comey for the first time publicly addressed Trump’s tweets claiming he was wiretapped by his predecessor.
“I have no information to support such tweets,” the FBI director said.
He repeated the same for the Justice Department.
“The department has no information that supports those tweets,” he said.
“I’m not going to try and characterize the tweets themselves. All I can say is we have no information that supports them.”
‘At this time’
During the daily White House press briefing, ABC’s Jonathan Karl mentioned that Comey “said that there is no information to support the allegations that the President made against President Obama.”
“At this time,” corrected White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
“So,” asked Karl, “is the President prepared to withdraw that accusation and apologize to the President?”
Spicer replied, “No, we started a hearing. It’s still ongoing. And, as Chairman Nunes mentioned, this is one in a series of hearings that will be happening.”
He added, “There’s a lot of things that aren’t being covered in this hearing that I think are interesting that — since it’s ongoing, I’ll leave that for now. But I think there’s a lot of areas that still need to be covered. There’s a lot of information that still needs to be discussed.”