- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Senate intelligence committee announced Thursday that it can find no evidence to back up President Trump’s claim that U.S. intelligence officials were eavesdropping on him during the campaign.

“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” the chairman and vice chairman of the committee said.

A day earlier the top Republican and Democrat on the House committee also said they haven’t seen any evidence.

The conclusions are a stark rejection of Mr. Trump, who earlier this month posted a series of tweets saying President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.

The White House has since struggled to explain what Mr. Trump meant, and the president himself has said he didn’t literally mean wiretapping, saying there are other ways to be surveilled.

He has predicted his claim will be vindicated.

But the senators Thursday appeared to rule out even suspicions of broader surveillance.

The revelations come just days before FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael S. Rogers are scheduled to testify publicly about Mr. Trump’s claims, as well as a broader debate about Russia’s role in attempting to influence the U.S. election.

The Obama administration, in its waning days, released a report concluding that Russian-backed hackers broke into Democratic campaign and operatives’ accounts and disseminated the information to damage Hillary Clinton, Democrats’ presidential nominee.

Some of Mr. Trump’s opponents took that as evidence he’d stolen the election — and their fears were spurred by reports of contacts between Trump aides and Russian operatives.

But the chairman of the House intelligence committee said he’s seen no evidence to back up charges of collusion between Mr. Trump and Russia. Those questions are also likely to play a role in Monday’s hearing.

Mr. Trump now says his assertion that Trump Tower was tapped was based on press reports.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan backed up Mr. Trump on Thursday, saying some of those reports did in fact surface — but Mr. Ryan, who is privy to the same high-level intelligence as the top members of the intelligence committees, said no wiretapping occurred.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Trump’s claims were “irresponsible for sure.”

She said making those kinds of statements feeds her belief that he’s beholden to Russia.

“We see no evidence to support his outrageous allegations,” she said. “He really is making a fool of his Cabinet and his people because they have to defend something that is so indefensible, unsubstantiated and just a stunt to deflect attention from some of the nasty stuff that is going on under his leadership.”

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