FBI Director James Comey reportedly asked the US Department of Justice to publicly refute President Donald Trump's claim that his predecessor ordered the wiretapping of his phones last year, according to The New York Times, citing sources with direct knowledge of the situation Sunday.
Comey, who put in the request on Saturday, told DOJ officials that the president must correct the public record partly because it insinuates that the FBI had broken the law.
In social media statements made over the weekend, Trump accused former president Barack Obama of wire tapping in October during the late stages of the presidential election campaign, but offered no evidence to support the allegation.
"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!," Trump said in a series of tweets on his Twitter account early on Saturday.
In one of the tweets, Trump said the alleged wire tapping took place in his Trump Tower skyscraper in New York, but there was "nothing found."
An Obama spokesperson later denied the allegations.
"A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice," said Kevin Lewis speaking on behalf of the former president.
The FBI has yet to release its own statement on the matter. A US Justice Department spokesperson also declined to comment.
According to The New York Times
, a sitting US president cannot legally order law enforcement agencies to spy on US citizens. That power rests only with federal law enforcement, which must first get the approval of a FISA ( Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court judge.
The White House has reportedly no intention of dropping the assertion, with Trump on Sunday demanding that US lawmakers investigate whether Obama had illegally ordered the FBI to spy on him during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.
Spicer added that “neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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