- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Trump administration faces another lawmaker-imposed deadline Wednesday to muster evidence to back the president’s claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year, after the Justice Department pleaded for more time Monday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday put the FBI on notice ahead of a hearing on Russia he has scheduled for Wednesday.

He said he planned to make an announcement about a letter he and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, recently sent to the DOJ asking for the information “and let the FBI know they’re about to screw up big time if they keep running to the intel committee and not answer that letter.”

“If they don’t honor this request and give us an answer, then I would say that we need a joint select committee, because the regular order is not working,” Mr. Graham told reporters.

They asked for the information in a March 8 letter. Mr. Graham, the committee chairman, has not ruled out issuing a subpoena to get a solid response, and Mr. Whitehouse, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said on MSNBC Tuesday that he’s ready to back Mr. Graham.

“That’s the chairman’s call. But I think the sooner we actually start getting answers, the better off we all are,” Mr. Whitehouse said.

Mr. Graham had said earlier this week he was getting “very ill-tempered” over not hearing back, but that he would give officials a bit more time to respond to the letter, which was addressed to FBI Director James B. Comey and Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.

The congressional intelligence committees are looking into the wiretapping issue as part of their probes into Russian interference in last year’s election, but Mr. Graham says FBI oversight falls to the judiciary committee.

An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau would provide any response to the letter to the lawmakers.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday the president is “very confident” there will be forthcoming evidence to vindicate him. The White House had asked the House and Senate intelligence panels to look into Mr. Trump’s claims as part of their investigations on Russia.

The controversy kicked into high gear when Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets on March 4 that Mr. Obama tapped his phones last year during the height of the presidential campaign. A spokesman for the former president has denied the charge, and Mr. Trump has yet to offer any detailed public comments on the matter since the tweets.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he would not try to direct Mr. Graham but that the “core” of the investigation is being done by the intelligence committee.

The House intelligence committee is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on Russian interference this coming Monday, and Mr. Comey is among the officials invited to testify.

The Justice Department already told the chairman and ranking member of the House intelligence committee on Monday they needed more time after Reps. Devin Nunes and Adam B. Schiff had said they wanted similar answers about Mr. Trump’s claims.

A spokesman for Mr. Nunes said they asked the department to provide them the information before the March 20 hearing, and that the committee could resort to a “compulsory process” if they don’t get answers.



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