The Latest: Dems seek details of communications about Russia

AP News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2017 9:09 PM
The Latest: Dems seek details of communications about Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump's claim that then-President Barack Obama had Trump's telephones tapped during last year's election (all times EST):

9 p.m.

Congressional Democrats are seeking details about reports of contacts between the White House and the Justice Department concerning the FBI's ongoing review of efforts by the Russian government to unlawfully influence the U.S. presidential election.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats plan a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn noting the contacts were inappropriate. Judiciary Democrats will also send a similar letter to FBI Director James Comey.

The Democrats cited reports of the White House contacting the Justice Department and FBI asking them to knock down reports of communications between Trump associates and Russians during the campaign. Comey hasn't done so, and Democrats want to know details of those communications.

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7 p.m.

A U.S. official tells The Associated Press that the FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute allegations made on Twitter by President Donald Trump that Barack Obama as president ordered the tapping of Trump's phones during the presidential campaign

The official isn't authorized to discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores has declined to comment on the matter, and an FBI spokesman also isn't commenting.

The New York Times reports that FBI Director James Comey has argued that the claim is false and has to be corrected.

The Justice Department has not issued any statement in an effort to refute Trump's assertion.

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6:20 p.m.

The New York Times is reporting that the director of the FBI has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject President Donald Trump's assertion that Barack Obama as president ordered the tapping of Trump's phones during the presidential campaign.

The Times reports on its website that senior American officials tell the newspaper that FBI Director James Comey has argued that the claim is false and must be corrected. No such statement has been issued by the Justice Department.

The Times reports that the officials say Comey wants the claim rejected publicly because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law.

Trump made the allegation of tapped phones at Trump Tower in a series of tweets Saturday but cited no evidence. An Obama spokesman says the allegation is false.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the Times report.

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12:45 p.m.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes says President Donald Trump's allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower last year will become part of his panel's investigation.

Trump has offered no evidence or details to support his claim, and Obama's spokesman has denied it.

The California Republican says in a statement his committee "will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party's campaign officials or surrogates."

The committee was already investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.

Without offering evidence, Trump claimed in a series of Saturday tweets that former President Barack Obama had telephones at Trump Tower wiretapped.

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11:10 a.m.

A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee says he believes President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated allegations that his predecessor ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower will become part of the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton says, "We're going to follow the facts wherever they lead us. And I'm sure that this matter will be a part of that inquiry."

Trump has provided no evidence of his tweeted accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

And Cotton said he has not seen any evidence of official wiretapping.

Cotton tells "Fox News Sunday," ''That doesn't mean that none of these things happened. It simply means I haven't seen that yet."

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11 a.m.

The senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling President Donald Trump's tweeted allegations that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower without revealing evidence "very reckless."

Sen. Mark Warner says, "This feels like an attempt where the president is trying to distract us by throwing out unsubstantiated information."

Trump has offered no supporting evidence for his claims and a spokesman for Obama denied the claim as "simply false."

The Virginia Democrat tells CBS's "Face The Nation" that he was not aware of any official intelligence order seeking wiretaps of then-presidential candidate Trump, and Trump's tweets made it sound like he didn't know how legal wiretaps are authorized.

Warner says, "To make that type of claim without any evidence is, I think, very reckless."

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10:35 a.m.

A White House spokeswoman says President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely discussed a new executive order over dinner on Saturday night.

But White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not specify what the new order would say. The White House is expected to soon release a new executive order replacing the one barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The meeting comes days after the attorney general withdrew from overseeing the FBI probe into Russian interference in the presidential election. During his confirmation proceedings, Sessions did not disclose his campaign-season contacts with a Russian ambassador.

Sanders also tells ABC's "This Week": "The president believes that Jeff Sessions is a good man and that he didn't do anything wrong."

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10:05 a.m.

The former director of national intelligence in the Obama administration denies there was a secret court order for surveillance at Trump Tower.

James Clapper says that in the national intelligence activity he oversaw, "there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, as a candidate or against his campaign."

Clapper says as intelligence director he would have known about a "FISA court order on something like this. Absolutely, I can deny it."

He left the White House on January 20 when Trump took office.

Clapper's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday came after President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in the last stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has provided no basis for his allegations.

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10:00 a.m.

Sen. Marco Rubio is on the Senate Intelligence Committee and he says the White House "will have to answer as to what exactly" President Donald Trump was referring to when he claimed former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the 2016 presidential election.

Presidents cannot order the surveillance of private citizens.

Rubio — a Florida Republican who ran against Trump last year — was interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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9:55 a.m.

The top House Democrat says it's "just ridiculous" for President Donald Trump to claim that former President Barack Obama would ever have ordered any wiretap of an American citizen.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi says "we don't do that" and she calls the charge a "smear."

The White House now wants Congress to investigate whether executive powers were abused in connection with the 2016 election.

Pelosi tells CNN's "State of the Union" that Trump is following the playbook of making something up, having the media report it and then saying everybody is writing about it.

The California Democrat says that's "a tool of an authoritarian" — to always having people "talking about what you want them to be talking about."

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9:50 a.m.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for a congressional investigation of allegations that the former Obama administration ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower during the last presidential campaign. But Sanders refused to say where the current president got his information or why he blamed the former president.

Sanders says on ABC's "This Week": "If they're going to investigate Russia ties, let's include this as part of it. That's what we're asking."

Sanders would not elaborate on what the president meant, saying his tweets speak for themselves. She also would not say exactly where the president got his information.

Without being specific, Sanders says Trump is "going off information that he's seen that have led him to believe that. ... And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we've ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself."

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9:15 a.m.

The White House says it wants the congressional committees that are investigating Russian interference in last year's U.S. presidential election to also examine whether "executive branch investigative powers" were abused in 2016.

That's a reference to President Donald Trump's claim in a series of Saturday tweets that former President Barack Obama had telephones at Trump Tower wiretapped.

Trump has offered no evidence or details to support his claim, and Obama's spokesman has denied it.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says there'll be no further White House comment until the committees conclude their work.