Rep. Chris Stewart: Trump's wiretapping claim not from 'thin air'

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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Stewart says there might be some basis for President Donald Trump's assertion that the Obama administration wiretapped his phones during the election.

"It's not made out of thin air," the Utah Republican said Monday.

But Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said up to this point he and the committee haven't seen any evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims.

Stewart hadn't heard of the allegation before Trump unleashed a series of Twitter posts Saturday, but said "it didn't come completely from left field."

Wiretapping requires obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant in court. Stewart said it has been reported that the Obama administration approached the FISA court and was denied in June but went back again and obtained permission in October.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Monday that he is not aware of any evidence the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower last fall.

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also hasn't ruled out the possibility.

"Thus far, I have not seen anything directly that would support what the president has said,” Chaffetz said on "CBS This Morning."

He added, however: "I learned a long time ago, I’m going to keep my eyes wide open. You never know when you turn a corner what you may or may not see."

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, promised to look into the allegation as part of an ongoing investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

"I think the intel committee is a much better forum for this because we're seeing political grandstanding, frankly, from a lot of people on both sides of the aisle right now," Stewart said.


Asked for his reaction to claims Trump made on Twitter, Chaffetz said, "It’s a very serious allegation. The president has at his fingertips tens of billions of dollars in intelligence apparatus."

"I got to believe, I think, he might have something there, but if not, we’re going to find out," he said. "I think it’s premature to say there’s no backing evidence."

Chaffetz said there would be a "paper trail" if anything did occur through the FISA court. He also said that the president also has the power to declassify information about a FISA order.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that no such surveillance had been carried out during the campaign against Trump or his aides.

Trump accused Obama of tapping his phones on Twitter this past Saturday, saying "This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

Stewart said social media isn't the way he would have leveled such allegations.

"I don't want to say if there's a better or a worse way. I mean it's probably not what I would have done. I don't communicate with my constituents through Twitter. This president does," he said.

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