A series of tweets by president Trump focused public attention on intelligence collection efforts long shrouded in secrecy. Through a spokesman, Obama said neither he nor any White House official had ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen.
If President Donald Trump wants to know whether he was the subject of the investigation by the US government, he may be uniquely positioned to get a response.
A series of tweets by the president Donald Trump focused public attention on intelligence collection authorities long shrouded in secrecy. Trump accused former President Barack Obama of ordering wiretaps on his phones but offered no proof to back the accusation, and the White House then called on Congress to examine the allegations.
But former administration attorney says that president hardly needs Congress to answer this question.
Todd Hinnen, head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division during the Obama government said: “The intelligence community works for the president, so if a president wanted to know whether the inquiry had been conducted on a particular target, all he would have to do is ask.”
The latest squall began on Saturday when the president in a series of tweets wrote, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The Justice Department, not the president, would have the right to conduct such surveillance, and representatives have not confirmed any such action. Through a spokesman, Barack Obama said neither he nor any White House official had ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen.
Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, also said Trump’s accusation was false, and a United States official said the Federal Bureau Investigation asked the Justice Department to disprove Trump’s assertions.
Sean Spicer, White House spokesman stated that the president was responding to media reports rather than any word from the intelligence community.
Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain said Monday that president needs to provide more information regarding the wiretapping accusation to the American people and Congress. “The dimensions of this are huge,” McCain said. “It’s accusing a former president of the US of violating the law which was never happened before.”
If president Trump demands to know what happened, “the Department of Justice can decide what’s accurate to share and what’s not,” said Amy Jeffress, another former Obama administration national security lawyer.
Trump also could have been referring to wiretapping authorized under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The Justice Department can obtain a warrant for that investigation by convincing a judge that there’s possible cause to believe the target has dedicated or is committing a crime.
The White House turned Sunday to Congress – which is already investigating ties between Russians and Trump associates – for help finding proof to support his allegations. Some Republicans seemed inclined to try to help Trump get answers.
A former Senate investigator and currently president of the Penn Quarter Research and Investigations Group, Dan Jones said for Congress, getting to the bottom of this issue should not be problematic.
Jones said, “It’s a knowable, ‘yes or no,'”. If the answer is there was no such warrant, he said, the next step would be to ask the president trump why he made such accusation. “That information would then be investigated to find out if it’s right or wrong.”