Former White House Press Secretary
Josh Earnest. (Screenshot, ABC)
(CNSNews.com) -- When asked whether he could "categorically deny" that the Obama Justice Department had sought and obtained a FISA court order to wiretap the Trump presidential campaign, former Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest would not deny it and, when pressed, said he did not know whether it had occurred. Earnest also would not say whether President Obama had been given surveillance information taken from Trump Tower in New York City.
As a guest on the March 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Josh Earnest began his comments by stating, "Let me just remove the mystery here and explain to you and your viewers why it is false to say that President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower." He then explained that the president cannot personally order a wiretap on a private citizen and that there are procedures that must be followed with the FBI and the FISA court.
Host Martha Raddatz then said, "We know about that denial from President Obama and the law as well. As President Obama's former speechwriter, Jon Favreau, your former colleague, tweeted: 'I'd be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the White House ordered it.' Can you categorically deny that the Obama Justice Department did not seek and obtain a FISA court order?"
Earnest answered, "What I can categorically deny, Martha, is that the White House was at all involved in directing or interfering or influencing an FBI investigation of any sort."
Raddatz then said, "That's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking is, can you deny that the Obama Justice Department did not seek and obtain a FISA court-ordered wiretap of the Trump campaign?"
Earnest then replied, "It was a cardinal rule -- here's the simple answer to that question, is, Martha, I don't know. And it's not because I'm no longer in government. The fact is, even when I was in government, I was not in a position of being regularly briefed on an FBI criminal or counterintelligence investigation."
"The White House -- no one at the White House, including the president of the United States, should be in a position in which they're trying to influence or dictate how that investigation is being conducted," he said.
Following along the surveillance trail, Raddatz then asked, "Do you to know with whether the president was ever given information about surveillance at Trump Tower?"
Earnest did not answer directly but said, "What I can tell you -- well, first of all, I'm not aware of all of the details of how the president was briefed by the FBI. But what I can tell you is the president was not giving marching orders to the FBI about how to conduct their investigations. He was not asking for regular updates on FBI investigations."
Then-President-elect Donald Trump meets with President Barack Obama in the White House,
Nov. 10, 2016. (AP)
"And let me just stipulate one more time," said Earnest, "you have to ask the FBI whether there actually is an investigation into Mr. Trump, his associates, his campaign. That's for them to talk about. That is not something that was talked about or directed or managed by the White House, because this is a cardinal rule. These are rules that have been in place since Watergate, and for good reason."
On a related topic, President Obama's former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper told NBC's Meet the Press on March 5 that, to his knowledge, there was "no evidence" of "collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians."