House Speaker Paul Ryan today closed the case on President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the Obama administration had his phones tapped during the election. Citing intelligence reports given to House leaders, Ryan said, “No such wiretap existed,” according to CNN. Although it will likely remain a talking point for Trump and his aides to insinuate the criminal wrongdoing of his predecessor without evidence, Ryan’s admission here should, at the very least, put pressure on White House officials and Republicans to stop entertaining the wiretapping idea in public.
“The intelligence committees, in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigations of all things Russia, got to the bottom — at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such wiretap existed,” Ryan said when prompted to give an update on the situation from a CNN journalist at a news conference today. This intelligence assessment follows efforts from FBI director James Comey to squash the baseless claim because it implied the FBI broke the law in carrying out a president’s surveillance bidding without a proper warrant.
Trump didn’t shy away from his claim in an interview with Fox News yesterday, despite widespread criticism and denials from members of his own administration. “Wiretap covers a lot of different things,” he told Fox host Tucker Carlson in a televised interview. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.” Promising more information in a veiled and cryptic fashion is a Trump hallmark, giving conspiratorial supporters something to tide them over while at the same time letting the president dodge hard questions concerning the lack of evidence to back up his claims.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to do damage control on Tuesday in similar fashion, telling reporters in a White House press briefing that, “The president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.” Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway also found herself twisted in knots after implying that the government could use home appliances like microwaves to spy on private citizens. She later walked that back after being mocked endlessly, telling CNN, “I’m not Inspector Gadget. I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.”