FBI Director James Comey unsuccessfully lobbied the Justice Department to publicly reject President Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Obama ordered a wiretap on him, according to the New York Times and NBC News.
The New York Times said Sunday that since Trump made the unsubstantiated allegations on Saturday, Comey has been trying to get the Justice Department to confirm for the public that the FBI did not break the law and spy on the president’s business headquarters in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
“Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president,” wrote Michael S. Schmidt and Michael D. Shear, “putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation 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.”
In spite of offering no evidence to support the claims, the White House is pressing ahead with the allegation — which some critics suggest is a fake news story that Trump saw on right-wing website Breitbart.com and conspiracy theory hub InfoWars and believed unquestioningly.
Now the president has tasked Congress and its top attorneys with coming up with evidence to support the claims after the fact, in spite of the issues posed by confirming that a federal judge has found reason to surveil Trump, such as probable cause of a crime or that Trump might be a foreign agent.
Former aide to Pres. George W. Bush David Frum said on Twitter that Comey’s rebuke is unprecedented, writing, “If report is accurate, the director of the FBI is rebuking the president of the United States as a fantasist & liar.”
One of the issues Comey faces is finding a Justice Department official of sufficient rank to make a statement against the president’s order. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself from any cases involving the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government.