Top officials in the intelligence community seem baffled by President Donald Trump’s suggestion that his phones were wiretapped during the election.
FBI Director James Comey reportedly asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s claims, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that “there was no such wiretap activity mounted against” Trump or his campaign during the election.
Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA, also rejected the suggestion that the US government could have tapped Trump’s phones during the election.
“It didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen,” Hayden told Business Insider on Monday. “What he said was President Obama directed eavesdropping surveillance, illegal surveillance, of him, or friends, or other people at Trump Tower or on the Trump campaign. That’s just not true.”
In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump accused President Barack Obama of tapping his phones.
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Hayden explained why that isn’t likely.
“The president of the United States doesn’t have the authority to authorize electronic surveillance,” he said. “That authority was taken away from him in the 1970s with the great intelligence reform of that era.”
Hayden said the US courts are the only institution that can authorize surveillance against a US citizen.
“President Obama could not have done it,” Hayden said. “And so if President Trump is making the claim that Barack Obama is pulling some sort of lever in the Oval Office to make this happen, I’m telling you, there’s nothing connected to the lever. It’s not going to happen.”
Hayden also pointed to Comey’s and Clapper’s denials.
When Chuck Todd asked Clapper on “Meet the Press” whether he could confirm or deny if a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant had been granted in order to engage in the kind of wiretapping Trump referred to, Clapper replied, “I can deny it.”
And after reports surfaced that Comey had asked the Justice Department for a public denial of the wiretapping, Matthew Miller, the department’s former spokesman under Obama, told Business Insider that Comey “would know beyond a shadow of a doubt” whether the wiretapping actually happened.
Miller said it would be a “massive crime” for the president to order such a wiretap.
But Trump’s advisers seem to be doubling down.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that she doesn’t think Trump accepts Comey’s rejection of the wiretapping allegations.