In the latest dramatic plot twist to emerge from Trump's accusation that Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower prior to the election, the NYT reports that FBI director James Comey asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s allegation that Obama eavesdropped on the soon-to-be president. According to the NYT, which cites senior American officials, Comey has argued that the "highly charged claim" is false and must be corrected as there is no evidence to back them up, but the DOJ has not yet released any such statement.
Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said. What is strange is that the FBI is requesting the DOJ to publicly deny Trump's claim when it is the FBI that has the jurisdiction to request a FISA warrant. It is therefore perplexing why Comey, if he wants to put the matter to rest, does not make the public denial himself instead of asking the DOJ to do it on the FBI's behalf.
To be sure, as the NYT adds, a statement by the DOJ or by Comey refuting Mr. Trump’s allegations "would be a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement officials in the position of questioning the truthfulness of the government’s top leader" and adds that the situation "underscores the high stakes of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration."
Furthermore, it is unclear who at the DOJ would issue such as statement, "even if it wanted to one", as Trump's close ally, AG Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigation. As the NYT points out, "there are few senior politically appointed officials at the Justice Department who can make the decision to release a statement, the officials said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself on Thursday from all matters related to the federal investigation into connections between Mr. Trump, his associates and Russia."
Furthermore, such a public statement would further position the nation's top law enforcement agencies against the Executive Branch.
Along with concerns about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election.
That, or raise even greater "worries" about allegations that the Obama administration was seeking to potentially sabotage a presidential candidate with a wiretap over Trump's Russian connections that, as Clapper admitted earlier, has found nothing.
In an additional ironic twist, Comey’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering is certain to invite contrasts to his actions last year, when he spoke publicly about the Hillary Clinton email case and disregarded Justice Department entreaties not to.
Meanwhile as reported earlier, the White House showed no indication that it would back down from Trump’s claims. On Sunday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the White House has demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Obama had "abused the power" of federal law enforcement agencies prior the 2016 presidential election. In the statement, Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.
As reported earlier, according to Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, Trump was "pissed" about the wiretap story, and said that "when I mentioned Obama “denials” about the wiretaps, he shot back: “This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right.”
It is unclear if the Comey statement would be found evidentiary, and would put the matter to rest or if, as Trump has demanded, a full blown probe into the alleged wiretapping will proceed regardless, especially since as in the case of former DNI director Clapper earlier today, it would be the DOJ's word against that of the president.