The source said Comey was concerned that the allegation would make the FBI look bad, and that concern was part of what prompted the FBI director to have his staff reach out to staff at the Justice Department asking them to knock down the allegation.
The source said Comey felt "institutionally he has to push back on this" because the magnitude of the allegations that Comey knows not to be true.
Over the weekend, senior-level officials within the FBI reached out to career personnel at the Justice Department to try to clear up reports that Obama wire-tapped Trump's phone, a US official told CNN. Part of the discussion was the FBI asking for DOJ to publicly knock down the allegations, which so far DOJ has not done.
Comey was aware of those discussions, the US official said, but Comey himself did not reach out to DOJ over the weekend.
Comey was frustrated that his request for DOJ to knock down the story went unanswered over the weekend, according to the source familiar with the matter, and the FBI director is still trying to figure an appropriate channel for the FBI and DOJ to formally come out and say the allegations are not true.
Trump's baseless wiretap claim
"He might come out and say only time will tell, but right now they (FBI and DOJ) should be in the exact same place and they're not," the source said.
The source added that Comey as of now has no plans to resign.
"Does he know of possibility there might be a confrontation and be fired by the President? Sure," the source said. "Does he worry about it? No."
The Justice Department and FBI had no comment.
On CNN's "Situation Room," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Trump must have evidence of his wiretap claims, and Comey, who he calls a "friend," should turn the allegations over to "an investigative arm" to get to the truth of what happened.
"Jim Comey is an honorable guy," Kelly said. "And so is the President of the United States. And the President must have his reasons."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that he's "almost 100% certain" that Trump and Comey haven't spoken since the President made the wiretap allegations, but stopped short of saying definitively that Trump retains confidence in his FBI director.
"There's nothing that I have been told by him that would lead me to to believe that anything is different than what it was prior," Spicer said.
Later, asked twice in an interview with CNN's Sara Murray about Trump's feelings toward Comey, Spicer again demurred.
"I haven't asked him that yet. Obviously he's focused today first and foremost on this effort to keep the country safe," he said.
Spicer said he would let Comey speak for himself when it comes to his potential concerns about Trump's allegations of wiretapping.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told reporters Monday evening that the wiretapping "would be earth-shattering if it happened," adding that he did not know of any evidence to support the President's claim, but agreed with Trump that Congress should investigate the matter.
Sen. John McCain called on Trump to provide evidence for his assertion.
"I'm all in favor of Congress continuing investigation," the Arizona Republican said. "But first I believe that the President should tell the American people what evidence he has that this kind of action was carried out by the previous president."
Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, made a similar point to CNN's Erin Burnett on "OutFront." The Utah Republican said it was a very serious accusation, worthy of congressional inquiry, but he also called on Trump to use his authority to declassify any existing information that could bolster his currently unsubstantiated case.
"I think the quicker this type of information comes out, the better it is," Stewart said. "If the President has information and he could declassify that without endangering national security, I would encourage him to do that."
|© Victoria Sarno Jordan|
FBI head ‘incredulous’ at Trump wiretapping tweets: report
FBI Director James Comey was “incredulous” after President Trump claimed former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the presidential race, according to a new report.
Comey was concerned Trump’s allegations would make the FBI look bad, a person familiar with the matter told CNN Monday.
“[Comey feels] institutionally he has to push back on this,” CNN’s source said, citing the magnitude of Trump’s accusations and Comey’s certainty they are untrue.
It was reported over the weekend that the FBI had asked career personnel at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publicly dismiss Trump's allegations, which so far has not happened.
A U.S. official CNN that Comey was aware of the talks between the FBI and DOJ but did not participate in them.
“[Comey] might come out and say only time will tell, but right now [the FBI and DOJ] should be in the exact same place and they’re not,” the person familiar with the matter told CNN Monday.
“Does he know of possibility there might be a confrontation and be fired by the president? Sure,” the source added of Comey. "Does he worry about it? No.”
Comey is reportedly frustrated that the DOJ has not pushed back against Trump's claims and is looking for a way for the Justice Department and the FBI to dispute the allegations.
Trump last Saturday claimed Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower before Election Day last year, tweeting the accusation without offering additional evidence.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” he said. "Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process,” Trump added in a separate tweet. "This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, said last Saturday Trump’s claims about the former president are “simply false.”
“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” he said in a statement.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday an investigation of Trump’s wiretapping claims should be included in any probe of ties between the president’s 2016 bid and Russia.
FBI Director James Comey is 'incredulous' over Trump's claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones during the campaign
FBI Director James Comey was 'incredulous' over President Donald Trump's allegation over the weekend that Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones during the election campaign, CNN reported on Monday.
Trump dropped the latest political bombshell on Washington this past Saturday when he tweeted: 'Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!'
The jaw-dropping allegation was denied by Obama's spokesperson and roundly denounced by Democrats.
Republicans, meanwhile, urged the White House to come forward with evidence to support Trump's charge.
Comey was so taken aback by Trump's allegation that he reportedly ordered his aides to lobby his bosses at the Justice Department to publicly refute the president's claim.
The FBI chief is eager to push back on the allegation because it insinuates that his agency broke the law by conducting politically motivated espionage against an opposition candidate for president, according to CNN.
A top-level source told CNN that Comey felt compelled that 'institutionally he has to push back on this' due to the magnitude of the unsubstantiated allegations.
Comey is reportedly frustrated by the Justice Department's unwillingness to forcefully knock down Trump's claims.
It is not clear why Comey himself did not issue a statement on his own behalf.
CNN reported that Comey is now mulling the appropriate forum and manner in which he will seek to refute the allegation.
'He might come out and say only time will tell, but right now they (FBI and DOJ) should be in the exact same place and they're not,' CNN quoted a 'source familiar with the matter' as saying.
If Comey publicly shoots down the president's claims, it may very well set up a confrontation between the two men that could ultimately cost the FBI director his job.
'Does he know of possibility there might be a confrontation and be fired by the President? Sure,' the source said.
'Does he worry about it? No.'
Earlier on Monday, top Trump aides said they do not believe Comey's reported denial that Obama ordered a wiretap on Trump Tower before the election.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC News Trump 'firmly believes' that the wiretapping allegations that they say have been 'reported pretty widely' should be looked at by Congress.
The White House is claiming that reports from the New York Times, BBC and Fox News back up the explosive charges against the previous president, even though there's no such evidence as Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos today pointed out.
Sanders insisted, 'It does back up the fact that the administration was wiretapping American citizens.'
'There was wide reporting suggesting that his administration, whether it was directly ordered by this president specifically, his administration could have done this.'
The reports she mentioned appear not to have confirmed the existence of the wiretap, but reported Trump's tweets which first raised the issue.
Sanders also said Trump doesn't necessarily believe that Comey called on the Justice Department to publicly refute the president's wiretapping claims in the first place.
She argued that the president has not seen a 'firm denial from the FBI.'
The Trump spokeswoman could not say whether the president had called Comey himself to ask him about the possibility that the agency was spying on him.
She suggested that it would be improper, and that is why the president has requested that the House Intelligence Committee probe the matter.
'From my understanding,' she said, 'there is a process that this has to follow.'
Sanders clashed repeatedly with Stephanopolous, who cut her off repeatedly - and said later, to DailyMail.com, that she misheard his first question, leading to claim that the president doesn't believe Comey.
Stephanopolous attacked her in the interview for claiming reports from the New York Times and others backed up the president, when they simply did not.
He said that only one report suggested there had been a court-ordered wiretap - which would not have been illegal.
After the shocking allegation of wiretapping that Trump compared to the Watergate scandal on Saturday, presidential aide Kellyanne Conway challenged Comey to reveal what he knows about the president's claims.
Conway last night demanded that Comey speak on the record if he wants to discredit the charges, although she could not confirm in the interview, on Fox News, that Trump knew for sure that the allegation is true.
Sanders had the same problem in a Sunday morning interview on ABC News.
This Week host Martha Raddatz challenged her to back up the president's previous claim that the wiretapping definitely happened.
'You keep saying, if, if, if. The president of the United States said it was a fact,' said Raddatz.
Trump's claims seem to have stemmed from a Thursday evening radio show hosted by Mark Levin that claimed Obama executed a 'silent coup' of Trump via 'police state' tactics, according to Breitbart News.
In June last year, the Obama administration filed a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Trump and several advisers but the request was denied, according to multiple reports at the time.
Some media outlets say a follow-up request, narrower in scope was made in October, approved and led to an investigation, however this has not been verified.
According to those claims, the new FISA request was focused on a Trump computer server alleging possible links with Russian banks. Some claim the server was based in Trump Tower.