Just as his unverified wiretapping claims were seemingly dispelled, President Donald Trump stuck his foot further in the mire and is now facing accusations he may have let slip highly classified information during a televised interview Wednesday evening.
When asked by Fox News host Tucker Carlson why he hasn't gone to the agencies he is "in charge of," to "gather evidence" to support his claim that President Barack Obama tapped Trump Tower, Trump said: "Because I don't want to do anything that's going to violate any strength of an agency. You know we have enough problems. And, by the way, the CIA—I just want people to know—the CIA was hacked and a lot of things taken. That was during the Obama years. That was not during us."
That information, it appears, was not for the public.
On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which has asked the administration to provide evidence of the alleged tap, accused Trump of "leaking" classified information.
In a statement, Schiff said:
In his effort to once again blame Obama, the President appears to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information.
It would be one thing if the President's statement were the product of intelligence community discussion and a purposeful decision to disclose information to the public, but that is unlikely to be the case. The President has the power to declassify whatever he wants, but this should be done as the product of thoughtful consideration and with intense input from any agency affected. For anyone else to do what the President may have done, would constitute what he deplores as "leaks."
As for the initial claim, Trump told Carlson that his definition of wiretap "covers a lot of different things," and promised that the Department of Justice "will be submitting things" to the House committee "very soon," despite missing a Monday deadline for evidence.
"You're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks," the president said.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are trying to put the entire scandal behind them. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday that "no such wiretap existed."
"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 in response to a reporter's question.
Further, the New York Times reported Wednesday:
The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, told reporters on Capitol Hill that "I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower" and that Mr. Trump, if taken literally, is simply "wrong."
And two Republican senators threatened to block Mr. Trump's nominee for deputy attorney general until they get clarity from the F.B.I. about the accuracy of the president's assertions. One of them vowed to issue subpoenas, if needed.
Nonetheless, Trump stood by his assertion, telling Fox that he doesn't think the tweeted accusation "is going to prove to be a mistake at all."
"[L]et's see whether or not I prove it," he said. "I just don't choose to do it right now. I choose to do it before the committee, and maybe I'll do it before the committee. Maybe I'll do it before I see the results of the committee. But I think we have some very good stuff. And we're in the process of putting it together, and I think it's going to be very demonstrative."