WASHINGTON - An African-American member of the House Intelligence Committee said the White House’s failure this week to present her committee with evidence supporting President Trump’s claim Barack Obama wiretapped him during the election confirms the prevailing view that his assertion is groundless.
“I don’t know why the White House keeps doubling down on Trump’s baseless claims,” said Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala. “We heard directly from the committee chairman as well as our ranking member that we’ve not heard of any evidence that suggest that claim is anything but baseless.”
House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, and the committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, told reporters Wednesday they had seen no evidence that Trump Tower was tapped. They said they would ask FBI Director James Comey about the issue Monday during a public hearing.
Additionally, leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan statement on Thursday rejecting President Donald Trump's assertion that the Obama administration tapped his phones
On March 4, six weeks after he took over from Obama, Trump made the wiretap accusations in a 6:30 a.m. Twitter post.
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!," Trump wrote.
The Intelligence Committee extended the White House’s deadline for providing evidence about the alleged wiretap to March 20. Nunes warned the Trump administration of the consequence of failing to meet the new deadline.
“If the committee does not receive a response by then, the committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered,” he said.
Sewell and other African-American members of Congress said Trump’s tweet about wiretapping is merely a distraction from more important issues.
“I think it’s important that we understand what U.S. persons may have been involved in the Russian hacking,” she said. “It’s indisputable that there was Russian hacking and interference in our elections.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, agreed.
“The American public and press must not be distracted by yet another sideshow stunt orchestrated by a president who is unraveling at the seams,” Waters said. “Donald Trump is a compulsive liar who will say and do anything to distract from the very serious questions about his associates' and campaign's ties to Russia.”
Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, who met with Trump earlier in the week to discuss the high prices prescription drugs and also talked about black voter suppression, said the president should “do less tweeting and do more leading.”
“When you come out and make allegations, as the president has, which cannot be proven, and then you find out the things are not true, you have now created a new sense of normalcy,” Cummings said. “And that normalcy is one where, as Adam Schiff said, you question almost anything that comes out of the president's mouth.”
Key leaders in the Trump administration have come under fire for unreported meetings with Russian officials. Mike Flynn was fired from his position as Trump’s National Security Advisor after he withheld his discussions and meetings with the Russian ambassador about reducing sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for interfering with the presidential election.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied meeting with Russian officials while working with the Trump campaign during his Senate Confirmation Hearing, but later admitted he did meet with an ambassador in his office while he was a senator.
Additionally, President Trump has denied reports on Russian interference in the presidential election and insulted federal agents who conducted the investigation.
“In my estimation,” Waters said, “[these actions are] because Donald Trump has something to hide and doesn't want the American people to know the truth.”