On Sunday morning, the news shows were completely focused on the Russia scandal and purported surveillance, after President Donald Trump spent his Saturday sunrise tweeting about alleged wiretaps he claims former President Obama ordered on his Trump Tower campaign lines last year.
Also on Sunday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement announcing the president's request for a congressional investigation of the supposed wiretapping.
Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.
Dan Balz spoke with Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," suggesting that there will be a heightened push by Democrats to clarify what's really happening with Russia.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined former director of national intelligence James Clapper and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher to discuss the Russian Connection. James Clapper, who spearheaded the Obama administration's report Russian interference with the election, said he had no information about any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order for a wiretap under the Obama administration.
Speaking about Trump's Twitter allegations, Clapper said, "I can't speak officially anymore, but I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus I saw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect or his campaign." When asked by host Chuck Todd if there was a FISA court order at Trump Tower, Clapper said, "I can deny it."
When asked by Todd whether there was any way to prove there were improper contacts between Trump campaign and Russian officials, Clapper said that to his knowledge there was no evidence to support this. "At what point should the American public start to wonder if this is all just smoke?" wondered Todd.
"I don't know," said Clapper. I do think it is in everyone's interest -- the current president, the Democrats' interest, the Republicans' interest, and the country's interest -- to get to the bottom of all this, because it's such a distraction. Certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissension."
Asked why he had protected the now-infamous "dossier" of unproven allegations against Trump put together by former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, Clapper said he felt the need to brief President about it, whether or not the information was true: "Without respect to the contents of the dossier . . . we felt the important thing was to warn the president that this thing was out there." Clapper said that there was often reported information he had to share with the White House that could not be proven, but had potential national security implications.
In a sign that leading Republicans are keeping their distance from Trump's latest unfounded allegations, Rubio promised that the Senate Intelligence Committee would hold a full inquiry into ties between the president's campaign and Russian intelligence. "I've told everybody, 'I'm not going to be a part of a witch hunt. But I'm also not going to be a part of a cover-up," said the Florida senator. "I want us to put the facts out there, wherever those facts lead us."
New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, also on "Meet the Press," was unequivocal in his criticism of the president's Saturday morning actions. Trump had tweeted out "more damning actions than any other president one after another," Friedman said, "then tweeting about Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is not non-presidential behavior -- that is not adult behavior. That is juvenile behavior. And the fact that we have a president who engages in that is deeply disturbing."
CNN's Jake Tapper hosted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on "State of the Union," where the leading Democrat called Trump the "deflector-in-chief" and suggested he will do "anything to change the subject." Saying she believes Trump's allegations to be a "smear" campaign against the Obama administration, Pelosi added that Trump is using "authoritarian" tactics to get the press to write about unproven and "ridiculous" claims.