President Donald Trump has left the Federal Bureau of Investigation in bit of a mess and now Director James Comey is apparently trying to fix the damage.
Over the weekend, the president took to Twitter to make baseless accusations against former President Barack Obama, alleging the previous administration ordered feds to wiretap his phone calls during the final weeks of 2016 presidential campaign.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
In usual Trump fashion, he cited no evidence to back up his claims. In fact, even the people on his staff were reportedly shocked when they saw the explosive tweets.
However, agency Director James Comey wants to clarify that Obama ordered no such thing. He even asked the Department of Justice to publicly refute these claims, arguing they are “false and must be corrected,” according to The New York Times.
NBC News also confirmed the story.
NBC News: FBI Director Comey asked DOJ to publicly refute Trump's claim that Obama ordered him wiretapped, a senior U.S. official confirms— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 5, 2017
Comey wasn't the only official to take Trump's comments to task. On Monday, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Michael Hayden said Trump "forgot that he was president."
"It looks as if the president just for a moment forgot that he was president," Hayden told a Fox News host. "Why didn’t he simply use the powers of the presidency to ask the acting director of national intelligence, the head of the FBI, to confirm or deny the story he apparently read from Breitbart the evening before?” We highly doubt the White House will answer his question.
The lack of response from Justice Department is not surprising, considering it is led by Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is currently battling a raging controversy about his alleged ties to the Russian government.
As the New York Times correctly pointed out, “A statement by the Justice Department or Mr. Comey refuting Mr. Trump’s allegations would be a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement officials in the position of questioning the truthfulness of the government’s top leader. The situation underscores the high stakes of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.”
So, why does Comey, the man who publicly investigated former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails found on her top aide’s husband’s laptop but stayed silent about the Trump campaign officials’ conversations with Russian operatives, want to refuse the president’s claims?
Well, at least one of his reasons seems straightforward. Trump’s statement, though unsubstantiated, insinuated the FBI broke the law, thus implicating Comey, who is widely considered pro-Trump.
Meanwhile, both Obama (through a spokesperson) and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied these accusations.
The Democrats, and even some Republicans, are now calling for the Trump administration to release evidence to back its accusations.
“Suffice it to say I don’t have any basis; I’ve never heard that allegation made before by anybody,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “I’ve never seen anything about that anywhere before. But again, the president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to.”
The White House is also exceptionally silent on the matter. Instead of providing any facts to support the president’s claims, it called on Congress to investigate the matter. Creating an accusation out of thin air, backed by nothing, and then demanding an investigation into invented claims — this is Trump being more presidential? Hardly.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jonathan Ernst