FBI chief wants allegation refuted
Trump aides admit his claim that Mr Obama wire-tapped his phone is unproven
PALM BEACH FBI Director James Comey has asked the US Justice Department to publicly refute President Donald Trump's explosive, unsubstantiated accusation that his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama, tapped his phone during last year's election campaign, media reports said on Sunday.
Mr Comey's extraordinary measure questioning the president's truthfulness provides an indication of the implications of Mr Trump's incendiary claim about his predecessor. The department has not made any statement.
Mr Trump's aides were scrambling on Sunday to limit the political fallout of his accusation 24 hours later - admitting it was still unproven and calling on Congress to investigate.
Citing still undefined "reports" of "politically motivated investigations", press secretary Sean Spicer said Mr Trump was calling on Congress to "determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016".
Trump spokesman Sarah Sanders echoed his 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."
Mr Trump, who has returned to Washington from a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate 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 (sic)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.
Mr Obama, via a spokesman, denied Mr Trump's new allegation as "simply false".
US presidents cannot legally order such wiretaps, which require the approval of a federal judge and reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Mr 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".
Mr Trump's comments appear to have been based on unverified claims made by the right-wing Breitbart News outlet which was once run by his chief strategist, Mr Steve Bannon.
The New York Times, citing senior US officials, first reported that Mr Comey believes Mr Trump's claim to be false.- AFP