The FBI is leaving open the possibility it sought -- and perhaps attained -- a wiretap of Donald Trump's communications.
When addressing the controversy over whether the Trump Tower was wiretapped during the Obama Administration, the FBI director, James Comey, tread carefully, acknowledging there is an investigation into Donald Trump's campaign's communications with Russia, but said there is "no evidence" to support Trump's tweets exactly as written.
Comey notably left open the possibility that it had, or still is, monitoring Trump communications.
When asked whether the FBI sought a FISA court warrant to wiretap Trump's team, Comey simply said he cannot comment on anything FISA related.
Here's an excerpt from Comey's question and answer session with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.):
SCHIFF: “Director Comey, I want to begin by attempting to put to rest several claims made by the president about his predecessor, namely that President Obama wiretapped his phones. So that we can be precise, I want to refer you to exactly what the president said and ask you whether there is any truth to it. First, the president claimed, quote, ‘Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism,’ unquote. Director Comey, was the president’s statement that Obama had his wires tapped in Trump Tower a true statement?”
COMEY: “With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”
SCHIFF: “The president accused Mr. Obama and presumably the FBI of engaging in McCarthyism. As you understand the term ‘McCarthyism,’ do you think President Obama or the FBI was engaged in such conduct?”
COMEY: “I’m not going to try and characterize the tweets themselves. All I can tell you is we have no information that supports them.”
SCHIFF: “Were you engaged in McCarthyism, Director Comey?”
COMEY: “I try very hard not to engage in any ‘isms’ of any kind, including McCarthyism.”
SCHIFF: “The president second stated, quote, ‘Is it legal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A new low!,’ unquote. Director Comey, can you answer the president’s question, would it be legal for President Obama to have ordered a wiretap of Donald Trump?”
COMEY: “I’m not going to characterize or respond to the tweets themselves. I can tell you in general, as — as admiral Rogers and I were just saying, there is a statutory framework in the United States under which courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, either in a criminal case or a national security case based on a showing a probable cause, carefully overseen. It’s a rigorous, rigorous process that involves all three branches of government and it’s one we’ve lived with since the late 1970s. That’s how it works.”
SCHIFF: “So —“
COMEY: “So no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone. It has to go through an application process, ask a judge, the judge can then make the order.”
SCHIFF: “So President Obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone?”
COMEY: “No president could.”
SCHIFF: “Mr. Trump also asserted in that tweet that he was — that the application or the president’s order was turned down by a court. Was there any request made by the FBI or Justice Department to wiretap Donald Trump turned down by a court?”
COMEY: “That’s one of those subjects I can’t comment on one way or another. Please don’t interpret that in any way other than I just can’t talk about anything that relates to the FISA process in an open setting.”