- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2017

President Trump’s unproven claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year is “alarming,” eroding diplomatic relations abroad and needs to be put to rest, top Democrats said Sunday.

Rep. Adam Schiff said he hopes FBI Director James B. Comey will debunk the claim Monday during a highly anticipated hearing before the House intelligence committee on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I hope we can put an end to this wild goose chase,” Mr. Schiff, California Democrat, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What the president said was just patently false.”

Mr. Trump said on Twitter two weeks ago that Mr. Obama had wiretapped his campaign headquarters during the presidential race last year.

Mr. Obama has denied it, and the White House has offered no specific proof aside from media reports about alleged surveillance.

The president also rejected a reporter’s suggestion that the White House is blaming British intelligence officials for helping Mr. Obama to conduct surveillance on his campaign.

“We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind [Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano], who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox,” Mr. Trump said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Citing intelligence sources, Mr. Napolitano said this week that Mr. Obama “went outside the chain of command” to get help from Britain with surveillance of Trump Tower.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, Texas Democrat, said Mr. Trump made a huge mistake by dragging Germany and the U.K. into the spat.

“Working together on things like counterterrorism is only successful if these nations and their intelligence agencies trust and have confidence in the United States,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “So when you hear these outlandish comments, what I keep thinking is that there’s a real possibility that the president is undermining these relationships.”

Congressional Republicans struggled Sunday to defend the president, but said they’d like to learn more.

“I’d like to first get to the bottom of this before saying what should be done,” Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I don’t know the basis for President Trump’s assertion, and that’s what I wish he would explain to us on the intelligence committee, and to the American people. And I do believe he owes us that explanation.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, also said he doesn’t know “what basis the president has for these allegations.”

Yet Mr. Cruz said the claims weren’t as outlandish as the media has treated them, saying the IRS under Mr. Obama targeted conservatives for extra scrutiny.

“We need to find out what the facts are,” Mr. Cruz said.

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