Trump continues defense of 'wiretap' claims

President Donald Trump continued his defense Wednesday evening of his unsubstantiated claim that he was "wiretapped" by former President Barack Obama in a series of retweets from his @realDonaldTrump account.

In back-to-back posts, Trump retweeted conservative radio host Bill Mitchell, an outspoken Trump supporter, who earlier tweeted about an assertion by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., that information about Trump associates was “incidentally collected” by the intelligence community.

In the first, Mitchell links to a story by the conservative outlet Gateway Pundit -- a blog that has previously perpetuated conspiracy theories and published factually incorrect information -- that carries the headline, "BOOM=> House Intel Chair: We Cannot Rule Out That Sr. Obama Officials Were Involved in Trump Surveillance." The piece discusses Nunes' comments.

EXACTLY AS I SAID - House Intel Chair: We Cannot Rule Out Sr. Obama Officials Were Involved in Trump Surveillance https://t.co/ernZeDQIfy

— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) March 23, 2017

Specifically highlighted in the article is Nunes' claim that the involvement of "senior Obama administration officials" in surveillance cannot be ruled out.

The top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., blasted Nunes' announcement today.

"The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the white house because he cannot do both," Schiff said today. "And unfortunately I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted."

Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team, working on the executive committee.

Trump's tweets over two weeks ago specifically accused former President Barack Obama of involvement in "wiretapping." The White House has since maintained that Trump was referring to surveillance in broader terms than just wiretapping.

The second retweet, again of Mitchell, is the radio hosts proclamation that "Trump always ends up being right."

Trump always ends up being right. It's almost a little freaky.

— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) March 22, 2017

"It's almost a little freaky," tweeted Mitchell, himself a promoter of conspiracy theories such as "Pizzagate."

Asked, following Nunes' remarks whether he felt "vindicated" by the information, Trump told reporters he "somewhat" did and "very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found."

At no point in Nunes' statement to the press did the congressman definitively confirm an effort to surveil Trump or campaign officials involving the prior administration, nor did he provide evidence to support his claims.

Last week, Nunes said, "We don't have any evidence that that took place... I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower."

FBI Director James Comey rebuffed Trump's claims in congressional testimony: "No individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone," he said.



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