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No secret warrant issued to wiretap Trump Tower, says former U.S. intel chief

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that the Obama administration did not seek or receive a special warrant to electronically monitor communications from Trump Tower after President Trump’s election victory.

Mr. Clapper’s comments came as the White House demanded that Congress investigate the Obama administration’s role in the 2016 election amid unconfirmed claims by Mr. Trump that his predecessor approved wiretapping at his New York residence for political purposes.

“I can deny it,” Mr. Clapper said Sunday, regarding claims that the Obama White House sought or obtained a surveillance warrant issued by the secretive court established under the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) to track possible communications between Trump officials and Russia.

Domestic surveillance, including wiretapping, by American intelligence can only be legally conducted after obtaining a warrant from the classified FISA court.

Mr. Clapper also said that based on the intelligence community’s findings, there has been no evidence pointing toward any efforts by the Trump administration to collude with Moscow.

Recent information indicating a Russia connection “could have become available during the time when I left office,” Mr. Clapper said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Mr. Clapper stood by the intelligence community’s findings that Russia deliberately interfered with the presidential election to help ensure Mr. Trump’s victory. But aside from those efforts, no evidence of collusion between Moscow and Washington had come to light during his tenure as America’s top intelligence official.

Allegations of deep Russian ties to the Trump administration have dogged the White House over recent weeks. Most recently Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to amend his confirmation hearing statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee claiming he had no contact with Russian officials, after news of two meetings between himself and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak surfaced.

The Trump administration has struggled to address growing questions about its ties to the Kremlin, culminating in a series of tweets over the weekend by Mr. Trump claiming the Obama White House had bugged his offices at Trump Tower.

In a Saturday tweet, Mr. Trump said “Terrible! Just found out Obama ad my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. This is McCarthyism!”

On Sunday, the White House called upon congressional intelligence panels to investigate “whether the executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” according to an administration statement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday such demands were part of an orchestrated effort by the Trump administration to deflect attention from allegations of Russian collusion. “It’s just ridiculous … we don’t do that,” she said during CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The Russians must be chortling” over the ongoing discord within the executive branch, tied to its inability to adequately put to rest questions over Russia’s ties to the White House, Mr. Clapper said.

“We need to get to the bottom of all this, because this is such a distraction,” he said, adding that he has “confidence in the [congressional] intelligence committees and their efforts,” to delve into the Russia issue.

When asked whether he would be called to testify before either the House or Senate intelligence panels as part of their ongoing inquiries, Mr. Clapper replied: “Oh, I do not think there is any doubt.”

Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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