Senate panel finds ‘no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance

WASHINGTON — The leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday flatly refuted President Trump's claims that his New York offices were wiretapped by the Obama administration in advance of the November election.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement.

The rebuke comes a day after the House Intelligence Committee offered a similar assessment, leaving the White House virtually alone in asserting the surveillance claim.

The unusually strong, bipartisan statement left little room for the White House to continue its defense of Trump's extraordinary allegations that implied that former president Barack Obama engaged in a possible criminal act.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House panel, and California Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's ranking Democrat, issued an equally strong repudiation of the wiretap claim.

"We don't have any evidence that that took place,'' Nunes said. "I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.''

The definitive statements from two of the most powerful congressional committees also come just days before FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, where he is expected to be asked about Trump's claims and the ongoing federal investigation into communications between Trump associates and Russian government officials.

In recent days, Trump and his aides have attempted to redefine the president's claims, saying that his use of the wiretapping term covers a variety of surveillance techniques.

"Wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff," Trump told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview Wednesday, echoing comments his aides have made in recent days. "But that really covers surveillance and many other things."

(Trump did use the terms "wires tapped" and "wire tapping" in quotation marks.)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also threw cold water on Trump's theory, telling reporters Thursday: "We've cleared that up; we've seen no evidence of that."

Obama's spokesman has denied wiretapping, noting that presidents are prohibited by law from wiretapping and that such surveillance would have to be approved by a special court.

Trump's accusation, first made in a March 4 series of tweets, comes amid an investigation into whether the president or his associates had contacts with Russians involved in the effort to hack Democratic Party officials during last year's election. Trump has said he had nothing to do with Russia and described the probes as witch-hunts.

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