Trump wiretap claim against Obama: No further White House comment due to inquiry

Congressional intelligence committees will be asked to investigate allegations from Donald Trump that Barack Obama had the phones tapped in Trump Tower during the final weeks of the election campaign, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Sunday.

Spicer issued a series of tweets, based on a statement, including one that said the committees will determine "whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."

He also said neither the White House nor Trump, elected U.S. president last November, will comment further "until such oversight is conducted."

On Sunday, House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes said the allegations will become part of his panel's investigation.

The California Republican says in a statement his committee "will make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party's campaign officials or surrogates."

The committee was already investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.

Earlier in the day, the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee called Trump's allegations "very reckless."

Sen. Mark Warner says, "This feels like an attempt where the president is trying to distract us by throwing out unsubstantiated information."

The Virginia Democrat told CBS's Face The Nation that he was not aware of any official intelligence order seeking wiretaps of then-presidential candidate Trump, and Trump's tweets made it sound like he didn't know how legal wiretaps are authorized.

Warner says, "To make that type of claim without any evidence is, I think, very reckless."

Trump took to social media on Saturday, invoking politically charged references to Watergate and McCarthyism in a Twitter tirade against his presidential predecessor.

The Republican offered no evidence or explanation for his allegation of wiretapping at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York.

On Sunday, Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said nothing matching Trump's claims had taken place.

"Absolutely, I can deny it," said Clapper, who left government when Trump took office in January. Other representatives for the former president also denied Trump's allegation.

Saturday, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis called the claim "simply false."

Josh Earnest, who was Obama's press secretary, said presidents do not have authority to unilaterally order the wiretapping of American citizens, as Trump has alleged was done to him. FBI investigators and Justice Department officials must seek a federal judge's approval for such a step.

Earnest accused Trump of levelling the allegations to distract from the attention being given to campaign-season contacts by Trump aides with a Russian official, including campaign adviser Jeff Sessions before he resigned from the Senate to become attorney general. The FBI is investigating those contacts, as is Congress.