(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is standing by President Trump’s assertions that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones, even as others -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have said there is no proof.
But the president believes he will, ultimately, be vindicated.
Here is a timeline of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims, what other officials have said and how the White House has responded:
Early Saturday morning, while away at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump fired off his first tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower in New York during the election.
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
Trump then posted three more tweets, comparing the allegations to President Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!— 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
Obama’s spokesman released a statement later that day, rebutting Trump’s accusations:
"No White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
Government sources told ABC News that FBI Director James Comey had asked the Department of Justice to publicly rebut Trump’s allegations out of concern that the president’s tweets might make it look as though the bureau acted improperly.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced in a statement that Trump requested that congressional intelligence committees “determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016” as part of their investigations of Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. election.
”Neither the White House nor the president will comment further until such oversight is conducted,” Spicer said in the statement.
The former director of national intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper, told ABC News that “there was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the National Intelligence Community ... including the FBI.”
The same day, speaking to the media -- in an audio-only gaggle -- for the first time since Trump tweeted, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was peppered with questions about the accusations.
"I think that there’s no question that something happened. The question is, is it surveillance, is it a wiretap, or whatever?" Spicer said, giving the first indication that the White House intended to broaden the scope of the allegations beyond monitoring phone calls.
When asked for clarification about whether Trump believed the FBI or Obama committed criminal acts in a potential pursuit of surveillance, as well as the appropriateness of the sitting president making such a public charge, Spicer repeatedly said that Trump's tweets "speak for themselves."
Another White House press briefing leads to questions about the promised investigation into the claims and Comey's reported request made in private that the Justice Department publicly shoot down Trump’s claims.
Spicer tells reporters that "the president has not" asked Comey whether he was wiretapped and stands by his March 5 statement on the direction of the inquiry, saying, "I think the smartest and most deliberative way to address this situation is to ask the House and Senate intelligence committees who are already in the process of looking into this."
The press secretary is also asked whether Trump has "any regrets" about making the accusation.
"No," Spicer said, "Absolutely not."
The House Intelligence Committee formally requested that the Justice Department turn over any documentary evidence, including applications, orders or warrants, by Monday, March 13.
Also, in the day’s briefing, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer whether President Trump would apologize to President Obama if his wiretapping accusation proves to be unfounded.
“Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I think it's important to see where that goes,” Spicer said, referring to the request from the chairman and ranking members of the House Intelligence Committee asking the Justice Department for evidence of Trump’s claim. “I don't want to prejudge their work at this time.”
Karl then pressed Spicer about what could happen if no evidence surfaces. Spicer said he’s “not going to get into a series of hypotheticals” but that once the investigation is completed, “we’ll respond appropriately.”
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway discussed surveillance with The Record of New Jersey, causing a stir when she included an unusual item in a list of appliances that could be co-opted into listening devices.
“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said. "You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets -- any number of ways -- and microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera."
Conway later said her remarks were taken out of context and told CNN that she doesn't "believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign," and Spicer would say that the comment was "made in jest."
Spicer launched a defense of Trump's tweets centered around punctuation, calling attention, in the day's press briefing, to the quotation marks employed by the president.
"I think if you look at the president’s tweet, he said very clearly “wiretapping” in quotes," Spicer said, indicating that Trump meant the word as a reference to overall reconnaissance.
"The president was very clear in his tweet that it was wiretapping, that that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options," Spicer said.
Two out of Trump's four tweets on the subject do not include the quotation marks, however, and he specifically refers to his "phones" in one.
Spicer also cautioned the media about reading too literally into the claim of Obama's involvement:
"He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally.”
The Department of Justice also asked for more time in meeting the House Intelligence Committee’s request for evidence of Trump’s wiretapping claim. The committee set the new deadline for before their March 20 hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election.
In light of the DOJ’s being given an additional week to gather evidence on surveillance, reporters continue to ask Spicer whether Trump feels assured in his position.
"I think he feels very confident it that will ultimately come to this -- will vindicate him," Spicer said during the press briefing.
The House Intelligence Committee leaders announced they didn’t find any evidence that Trump’s Manhattan office was wiretapped by Obama.
"We don't have any evidence that that took place. ... I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said during a Capitol Hill news conference alongside Democratic ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff of California.
Nunes also said it depends on whether you interpret Trump’s tweets literally.
“I think the challenge here is that President Obama wouldn't physically go over and wiretap Trump Tower,” Nunes said. “So now you have to decide ... are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong.”
Nunes continued, “But if you're not going to take the tweets literally, and if there's a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out.”
In an interview with Fox News that aired Wednesday night, Trump commented for the first time on the wiretapping allegations.
Trump explained that his claims originated from “reading about things” and news reports. He pointed to a New York Times article and a Fox News segment, though neither reports that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
When asked why he didn’t reach out to intelligence agencies to verify his claims, Trump said he didn't "want to do anything that's going to violate any strength of an agency."
He added, "I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Senate Intelligence Committee leaders -- Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va. -- released a joint statement: "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.”
Spicer defended Trump during the press briefing and said the congressional intelligence committees’ statements were not based on investigative work.
“They're not findings. There's a statement out today they have not begun this," Spicer said. "Two days ago the Department of Justice asked for an additional week. The statement clearly says at this time that they don't believe that.”
Spicer also launched into a lengthy spiel of citing various news reports that inspired Trump’s March 4 tweets, and included Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano’s suggestion that Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters to spy on Trump.
“The bipartisan leaders of the Intelligence Committee would not have made the statement they made without having been fully briefed by the appropriate authorities,” Sen. Warner’s spokeswoman fired back at Spicer in a statement after the press briefing.
The Justice Department announced it was complying with the Intelligence and Justice Committees' requests for information on surveillance efforts, but did not provide detail on the extent of the information.
Word of the Justice Department's actions came just as Trump was holding a joint news conference German Chancellor Angela Merkel in which he was asked by German media about the claims.
"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," Trump said of Merkel, referring to the revelation first reported in 2013 by a German news magazine that a document apparently from a U.S. National Security Agency database indicated Merkel's cellphone was first listed as a target in 2002.
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