March 16 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday broadened his definition of “wiretapping” to include more general forms of surveillance after he accused President Barack Obama of tapping his telephone with no evidence.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he learned his phones were tapped by reading a New York Times article in January, though that article did not say information about contacts between Trump associates and Russian diplomats came from tapping Trump’s phone, as the president claimed. Rather, the Times reported the conversation between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador was uncovered because of routine intelligence-gathering against the Russians.
Trump did not offer any specific evidence, but promised his administration would present evidence to the House and Senate intelligence committees in the coming two weeks to support his claim.
In the interview Wednesday, Trump appeared to back off of the specific allegation of wiretapping he made on Twitter last month.
“When I say wiretap, those words were in quotes … wiretapping is pretty old fashioned stuff but that really covers surveillance and many other things. Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Trump said in the interview.
Asked why he hasn’t ordered the intelligence agencies to provide the evidence, Trump said he does not want to make them look weak.
“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency,” Trump said.
The claim was condemned by lawmakers of both parties in Congress and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. David Nunes, a Republican, said this week he has seen nothing that would support Trump’s claim.
FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before Congress about the agency’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s election tampering next week and has said privately that no such effort to tap Trump’s phones took place.
Democrats have pointed out that, unless the FBI were carrying out an illegal rogue investigation, the Obama administration would have required a warrant signed by a judge who believed there was probable cause Trump or his campaign were committing a crime in order to justify a government wiretap.