WASHINGTON - President Trump is questioning FBI Director James Comey's reported assertion that Trump is wrong to claim that predecessor Barack Obama had him wiretapped during last year's election.
Asked on ABC's Good Morning America whether the president accepts Comey's statement that Obama did not authorize any wiretaps, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said: "You know, I don't think he does."
This past weekend, Comey sought a public rebuke from the Justice Department of Trump's accusation that Obama ordered the surveillance of Trump's phones prior to the election in connection with an investigation into Russian activities, a U.S. official confirmed Sunday to USA TODAY.
Lawmakers and government officials said they are unaware of any Obama-authorized wiretap, and it would be illegal for any president to do that in any case.
James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence last year, told NBC's Meet The Press that to his knowledge the special court that handles these cases did not authorize surveillance of Trump Tower, the New York office that housed the Republican candidate's campaign.
Clapper also said he saw no evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
Democrats said that, in accusing Obama, Trump is either spinning a baseless conspiracy theory or seeking to distract people from the Russia investigation that could involve the president and some of his campaign associates. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe, said that "I think it's him acting in a pretty crazy way."
Trump made the allegation Saturday morning via Twitter, causing the latest political storm over investigations into whether Russia sought to influence last year's election by hacking Democrats close to presidential nominee (and Trump opponent) Hillary Clinton.
During a string of television interviews, Sanders said she doesn't think that Trump has spoken with Comey. "I don't know that he has talked directly with the FBI director," she told ABC.
Sanders noted that Trump has requested a congressional investigation of his claims and only wants Congress to "do its job."
The Justice Department had not responded to the request Sunday after Comey's extraordinary request to discredit claims of a plot to sabotage the president's campaign.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, appearing on Fox News, called on the FBI director to make his concerns public.
"If Mr. Comey has something he'd like to say I'm sure we're all willing to hear it," Conway said. "All I saw was a published news report. I didn't see a statement from him so I don't know what Mr Comey knows."
By law, presidents do not order wiretaps.
Any kind of wiretap in connection with an investigation of Russia would have to be approved by a special court acting under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
That law, passed in 1978 to reform the excesses of intelligence surveillance during the Richard Nixon administration and earlier presidencies, requires law enforcement to obtain an order from a special court of federal judges before they conduct telephone surveillance on people in the United States.