World

White House asks Congress to probe alleged wiretap

Trump urged to provide evidence to back up accusation against Obama

WASHINGTON: The White House yesterday asked the US Congress to examine whether the Obama administration abused its investigative authority during the 2016 campaign, as part of the ongoing congressional probe into Russia's influence on the election.

The request came a day after President Donald Trump alleged, without supporting evidence, that then-President Obama ordered a wiretap of the phones at Mr Trump's campaign headquarters in Trump Tower in New York.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Mr Trump and administration officials would have no further comment on the issue until Congress has completed its probe, potentially heading off attempts to get Mr Trump to explain accusations.

"Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling," Mr Spicer said in a statement.

Earlier, Republican Senator Ben Sasse said Mr Trump's comments were "serious", and he should explain the alleged wire tapping and how he came to know about it.

The Republican President has supplied no details to back his claim, the BBC reported.

An Obama spokesman said he had never ordered surveillance of any US citizen, and that it was "simply false", and US Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Mr Trump's assertion a "spectacularly reckless allegation".

Other media reports had previously suggested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had sought a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance court (Fisa) in order to monitor members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials.

WARRANT

The warrant was turned down, then reportedly approved in October, though there has been no official confirmation.

Under Fisa, wire tapping can be approved only if there is probable cause to believe that the target of the surveillance is an agent of a foreign power.

Mr Obama could not lawfully have ordered such a warrant.

Two people close to Mr Trump said they believed he was referring to a Breitbart News article, which aides said had been passed around among his advisers, The New York Times reported.

Breitbart News Network is a far-right website.

The article, published on Friday, claimed that there was a series of "known steps" taken by Mr Obama's administration "in its last months to undermine Donald Trump's presidential campaign and, later, his new administration".

Mr Stephen K Bannon, Mr Trump's chief strategist, once led Breitbart News.

Mr Trump made the accusation in a series of tweets on Saturday, Reuters reported.

"How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" he wrote in one tweet. I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!"

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