WASHINGTON — The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee put out a statement on Thursday stating there is no indication Trump Tower was the subject of U.S. government surveillance, another blow to President Donald Trump's twitter allegations that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones.
The statement from Republican Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, comes a day after Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House intelligence committee and Trump supporter, said he saw no evidence of the wiretapping claim.
“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," the Senate intelligence committee statement read.
At the daily White House briefing on Thursday, press secretary Sean Spicer said the press was “mischaracterizing” the statement and spent several minutes citing various news articles to argue that “something was going on during the  election.”
“The statement clearly says that at this time that they don’t believe that. They have yet to go through the information,” Spicer said about the Senate intelligence committee’s statement. “The Department of Justice, as you know, has not supplied this.”
His comment came as part of a heated exchange with reporters on the matter, where he argued that what the president meant by wire tapping was broader surveillance.
“I think that puts a rather firm exclamation point that this is a baseless charge by the president, but I think we’ll have the director address this in our open hearing on Monday, and then hopefully that will put this to rest,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, told BuzzFeed News about the statement.
On Monday, the House intelligence committee will hold its first open hearing on its Russia investigation. FBI director James Comey has agreed to appear.
“This is only the beginning,” Nunes told reporters on Thursday after he was asked whether the Monday hearing would put to rest the questions about wire taps. He said if Trump's tweets are not taken literally but “in the broad scope of things and all surveillance activities, then there are still questions that are unanswered.”
Earlier this month, Trump accused Obama of wire tapping Trump Tower before the election. The next day, the White House sent out a statement calling on the Congressional intelligence committees to investigate.
"He's accusing the former president of personally ordering wiretapping against him. Zero evidence of that," Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, told BuzzFeed News. "And I think that was only intended to deceive, to be a smoke bomb rolled into this investigation."
Interpretation of what Trump meant by his tweets has been a matter of debate, to the extent that Schiff on Wednesday said the White House has "been all over the map" on the matter.
On Wednesday, Nunes said that if the president's tweets are taken literally, then the president was "wrong" about wire tapping. On Thursday, Nunes bucked down and told reporters, "as far as I'm concerned, I think I've been very, very clear there was no physical wire tap." Nunes said he did not think the president meant those tweets literally.
“Now you have to decide, as I mentioned to you last week, are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong," Nunes said at a press conference on Wednesday. "But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally and if there’s a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out. I think it’s all in the interpretation of what you believe.”
Nunes has defended the president tweeting before but expressed a desire for him to be more clear.
Lissandra Villa is a reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Lissandra Villa at email@example.com.
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