Justice Dossier Said Unlikely to Sway Lawmakers on Trump Wiretapby and
Lawmakers’ view there was no surveillance said to get support
Classified documents sent to Capitol by Justice Department
A classified dossier the Justice Department sent to Congress isn’t likely to change the position of key lawmakers that there’s no evidence that President Donald Trump was placed under surveillance last year by his predecessor, according to a U.S. official.
The department sent documents to Capitol Hill late Friday in response to letters from lawmakers demanding answers to a range of sensitive questions, including whether there was evidence Trump Tower was “wiretapped” by the Obama administration, as the president suggested last week. The official, who’s familiar with the documents, asked not to be identified discussing the sensitive material.
A Justice Department representative brought a binder of documents to the Capitol and allowed members to view it in a secure room but not keep copies for themselves. The Justice Department declined to comment on the contents of the material.
Congressional committees are pursuing their own investigations into Russian meddling in last year’s campaign, which remains a focus of intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Trump’s unsubstantiated claim in postings on Twitter that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower in New York during the presidential campaign has added another dimension to the inquiries.
Lawmakers had sent letters to the Justice Department and FBI demanding answers to questions, including whether there was evidence to back up Trump’s wiretap claim -- or his amended assertion that he had been under surveillance, which he said was based on media reports.
But senior members of congressional committees from both parties already had made clear they didn’t believe Trump’s claims.
“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,” Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel’s top Democrat, said in a joint statement this week.
“The committee is satisfied that the Department of Justice has fully complied with our request for information from our March 8 letter on possible surveillance related to Donald Trump or his associates,” Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement late Friday without discussing the contents of the classified file.
He said the committee has yet to receive information from the CIA and the FBI needed to determine if information on Americans was swept up during surveillance and then “mishandled and leaked.”
Some Republicans have said that may have happened to people connected to the Trump campaign, including Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who was fired after the disclosure that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone calls he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office.
In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the department “has complied with the request from leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and Judiciary Committees seeking information related to surveillance during the 2016 election.”
“At this point there’s only one copy,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, said of the Justice Department dossier delivered Friday, the deadline members gave the department to respond. “Most of us haven’t seen it yet. I’m told that we have one copy somewhere in the Capitol, which to wait until the end of Friday on it was a pretty poor response.”
The department’s response comes with FBI Director James Comey set to testify publicly Monday for the first time about Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election and the web of conspiracies -- or conspiracy theories -- entangling Trump and his associates.
The president, in a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, declined to back down from his accusation that the Obama administration had authorized surveillance against him.
“I think we’ll hear quite a direct rebuttal from the director of the FBI at our hearing Monday,” Schiff said. The president’s statements and tweets “have no basis in fact,” he added.