Lawmakers Accuse FBI Of Withholding Information In Trump-Russia Probe

Mar 15, 2017
Originally published on March 15, 2017 6:30 pm
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Congress was already looking into allegations related to Russia's attempts to meddle in the 2016 election. Then President Trump added an explosive claim to the list when he said that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. Trump didn't provide evidence to back it up. And today, a top House Republican said he doesn't think it happened. NPR's Scott Detrow reports from the Capitol.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have a lot to figure out right now. How much did Russia attempt to influence the presidential election? Did Russian actors talk to the Trump campaign about that effort? And how are all these leaks making their way to the press?

But ever since Trump's Saturday morning tweet storm more than a week ago, the president's explosive and unverified claim about Obama has drowned everything else out. Republican Devin Nunes is leading the House investigation, and he now says Trump is wrong.

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DEVIN NUNES: We don't have any evidence that that took place. And in fact, I don't believe just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to, I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.

DETROW: Speaking of Fox News channel's Tucker Carlson tonight, Trump didn't back down.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.

DETROW: Nunes says his committee still has a lot of broader questions about what sort of surveillance was going on last year and how so much information about intelligence gathering has made its way into the public domain. But as for that claim that Obama was taking a page from Richard Nixon and spying on political enemies...

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NUNES: President Obama wouldn't physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower. So 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.

DETROW: One thing Nunes and other key Republicans are taking literally - the White House's request that Congress investigate Trump's claims. On the Senate side, there's increasing frustration with the Department of Justice and the White House for not sharing more information with the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Republicans Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham are threatening to hold up Trump nominations and even issue subpoenas unless the FBI is more candid about what, if anything, it's investigating right now. Graham is demanding more details about whether or not that wiretap happened.

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LINDSEY GRAHAM: I have no evidence for that, but I can tell you this. That question needs to be answered because I don't think it's ever been raised before. And the bottom line is a lot of Americans are wondering what's going on here.

DETROW: He says the answer would provide a whole lot of clarity.

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GRAHAM: If the answer is no, then we'll know that didn't happen. If the answer is yes, that would be pretty stunning to me because they would have to have probable cause. I don't know what the answer is. But I know it's the right question to ask.

DETROW: So far, the House and Senate investigations into Russia's role in the election have taken place behind closed doors in secure rooms. That changes next week when the House Intelligence Committee holds its first public hearing. FBI Director James Comey will testify, and he will be asked whether Trump Tower was wiretapped. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.