The US White House is asking Congress to investigate allegations president Donald Trump made on Twitter on March 4, which appear to have been based on a right-wing talk show host’s theory that was regurgitated by alt-right news outlet Breitbart. Until the election, Breitbart was run by Trump senior advisor Steve Bannon.
In a statement issued at 8:55am EST on Sunday, the White House said:
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.
Neither the White House nor the President will comment further until such oversight is conducted.
As US president, Trump presides over the most extensive, most sophisticated intelligence gathering operations in the world—one that includes over a dozen agencies which may employ nearly one million staffers and contractors. He has alternately insulted and alienated many of those agencies, though.
Breitbart, a website that started in 2007, employs several dozen writers and has a reputation for publishing “lies, smears, and distortions,” Media Matters explained long before the 2016 election.
Republicans and Democrats alike were been alarmed by Trump’s Saturday tweets. He “just put another quarter in the conspiracy parking meter,” former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers told CNN. Few have responded to Sunday’s White House statement so far.
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin claimed on-air on March 2 that the Barack Obama White House had used “police state” tactics on the Trump campaign. Levin’s theory was republished in Breitbart, citing news reports that were published months ago, and that White House advisors and Trump could have read at any time.
The FBI and both houses of Congress are investigating potential links between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers who attempted to interfere in the US’s 2016 election. A spokesman for Obama said neither he nor the White House “ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Less than an hour after issuing a statement pledging not to comment, White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted from his official work account: