The FBI has asked the Justice Department to dispute allegations by President Donald Trump that former President Barack Obama had Trump’s telephones tapped during the election campaign, U.S. media are reporting.
The New York Times on March 5 cited senior U.S. officials as saying FBI Director James Comey wants the Justice Department to dispute the claim because it falsely insinuates that the FBI broke the law.
The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, also reported on Comey’s request to have the claim refuted by the Justice Department. The FBI operates under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, which is headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Justice Department has not issued such a statement, and a spokeswoman declined to comment. The FBI also declined to comment.
The White House said on March 5 that Trump had asked Congress to examine whether the Obama administration abused its "investigative powers" during the 2016 campaign.
The statement came a day after the president accused his predecessor of wiretapping his New York office during the election campaign, without offering evidence.
An Obama spokesman denied the claim as "simply false."
The director of national intelligence at the time of the election denied there was any wiretapping of the Trump campaign.
"There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign," the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in a March 5 interview with NBC.
He said that as intelligence director he would have known about any "court order on something like this. Absolutely, I can deny it."
But he said he can't speak for "other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity."
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to unspecified reports of "potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election" as "very troubling."
"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," Spicer said.
"Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted," Spicer added.
Josh Earnest, who was the press secretary to Obama, said presidents do not have the authority to order the wiretapping of U.S. citizens. He also said FBI investigators and Justice Department officials must get approval from a federal judge to do so.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP