The head of the FBI yesterday said he had seen no evidence to support a claim by US President Donald Trump that former president Barack Obama had wiretapped his 2016 election campaign.
Before FBI Director James Comey began his testimony to the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Republican chairman Devin Nunes said it was possible other means of surveillance had been used against Trump.
The committee is investigating accusations that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democratic operatives and releasing embarrassing information. The surveillance allegation became an issue when Trump earlier this month accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in New York, which housed the campaign headquarters for the Republican's surprise election win against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets," Comey told the congressional hearing.
"And we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components: the department has no information that supports those tweets," he said.
Comey also confirmed the agency is investigating possible Russian government efforts to interfere in the election, including any links between Trump's campaign and Moscow.
Russia denies it attempted to influence the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Nunes had opened the hearing by denying Trump's wiretapping claim but did not rule out other surveillance methods.
"We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower," he said. "However, it's still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates."
Comey's disclosure confirmed longstanding reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing the explosive charges that Trump's stunning election victory over Hillary Clinton last November came on the back of Russian meddling.
US intelligence chiefs said in January they were convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind that effort.
But they had not commented on whether they were examining links between members of Trump's campaign and Russian officials.
Republican committee chair Devin Nunes opened yesterday's hearing -- the first public hearing into the issue -- by saying the panel had "seen no evidence to date that officials from any campaign conspired with Russian agents."
But Adam Schiff, the Democratic vice chair of the committee, detailed a list of alleged links and communications between the Trump team and Russia.