WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to the FBI and Department of Justice on Wednesday requesting documents related to President Donald Trump’s claim that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by former President Barack Obama during the election. "Congress must get to the bottom" of the allegation, the two senators said.
The letter, addressed to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, asks for "copies of any warrant applications and court orders [...] related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower."
"We will be glad to review any such applications and orders once they are disclosed, and proceed as appropriate with the oversight the President has requested," the letter says.
Graham and Whitehouse, ranking members on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, write that they "would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously.
"We would be equally alarmed to learn that a court found enough evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower," the letter reads.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to accuse Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election. The White House remained silent until Sunday, when Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement saying Trump is calling on Congress to investigate his claims.
The same day, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied that Trump Tower was wiretapped or that a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act) warrant permitting surveillance of Trump Tower existed.
On Monday, Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill that he and Whitehouse would “look into” whether a warrant was issued authorizing surveillance of Trump Tower, “and whether or not there was any illegal activity regarding the Trump campaign.”
“It would be Earth-shattering if the former administration wiretapped a campaign of the current president,” Graham said. “If the FISA court issued a warrant, that would be pretty stunning too, because they’d have to have probable cause.”
“We’ll be writing a letter to the FBI director and the DOJ to confirm or deny these allegations,” he said at the time.
On Tuesday, Graham met with Trump for lunch at the White House. Graham later told reporters that he did not ask the president about the wiretapping allegation. “I wanted to talk about how we can fix problems,” Graham said.
Some Hill Republicans, including Graham, have said they will heed the president’s call to investigate his unproven claims.
Sen. Richard Shelby said Congress “ought to find out if” the wiretapping did occur. “That’d be horrible. But we need to know if that’s true. Anything’s possible.”
But Sen. John McCain, chair of the Armed Services committee, is calling on the White House to reveal the basis for Trump’s accusation before Congress investigates.
“The American people have a right to know on what basis the president of the United States said that his predecessor had broken the law by wire-tapping Trump Tower,” McCain said.
“This is unprecedented. I have never heard of a president of the United States accusing his predecessor or any other president of the United States of violating the law,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Intelligence committee — which has taken the lead on investigating Russian interference during the election — said he’s “never seen anything about” Trump’s claims.
“I think if the president has information on something like that, I imagine that he’ll be forthcoming,” Rubio said.
McCain said public pressure could encourage Trump to explain the basis for the accusation. “[Attorney General Jeff] Sessions said he wasn’t going to recuse himself and then the American people demanded it,” McCain said.
“The American people should demand it,” McCain said. “Let’s see what he does.”