Former Bush AG: Wiretap would mean suspicion of someone acting as Russian 'agent'

Michael Mukasey was attorney general for former President George W. Bush.

ByABC News
March 5, 2017, 1:08 PM

— -- A former Republican attorney general said that while he disputes President Trump's claim that former President Obama ordered a wiretap of phones at Trump Tower, he believes "there was surveillance" carried out at the request of the Justice Department – which would mean "there were some basis to believe that somebody in Trump Tower may have been acting as an agent of the Russians, for whatever purpose."

Michael Mukasey, who served as attorney general to former President George W. Bush, told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz, "This is the difference between being correct and being right. I think the president was not correct certainly in saying that President Obama ordered a tap on a server in Trump Tower."

"However, I think he's right in that there was surveillance and that it was conducted at the behest of the attorney -- of the Justice Department through the FISA court," Mukasey said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that decides on many surveillance requests by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Raddatz, on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, asked Mukasey the basis for his view.

"I base that on news reports ... [and] on kind of inadvertent blurting-out by [Rep.] Adam Schiff that his committee wants to talk to the counterintelligence agents at the FBI who were involved in this. Now, what that means is this is part not of a criminal investigation, but of an intelligence-gathering investigation."

Schiff, a California Democrat, is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and has been critical of the FBI’s cooperation with the committee’s investigation into Russia’ interference in the 2016 election, saying in a statement Sunday, “If the Administration truly believes that President Obama illegally eavesdropped on the Trump campaign and wants our committee to investigate the matter, they should join my call on Director Comey to answer any question put to him that is pertinent to the Russia investigation."

On "This Week," Raddatz noted that the FISA court would have approved a wiretap only if there was evidence for suspicion."So, if there was a wiretap, does that mean there were suspicious things going on between the Trump administration and the Russians?" she asked.

"It means there were some basis to believe that somebody in Trump Tower may have been acting as an agent of the Russians, for whatever purpose, not necessarily the election, but for some purpose," Mukasey said.

President Obama’s former director of national intelligence James Clapper said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that "there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president."

When Clapper was asked whether he could confirm or deny the existence of a FISA court order to wiretap Trump Tower, he said, "I can deny it," adding that such surveillance is "absolutely" information he would have been told about as director of national intelligence.

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