Intel chair pushes back on Trump 'literal vs. serious' debate, says President's tweets matter

Rep. Adam Schiff:  'No, wiretap is a wiretap"
Rep. Adam Schiff:  'No, wiretap is a wiretap"

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Rep. Adam Schiff: 'No, wiretap is a wiretap" 03:49

Story highlights

  • House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said some take Donald Trump too literally
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee Chair said they take anything the President says seriously

Washington (CNN)House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes chided the media Wednesday for taking President Donald Trump's wiretap accusations literally, but his Senate counterpart fired back that he takes the President so seriously he's spent the last few weeks searching the government for evidence.

"I take seriously anything the President says," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told reporters Wednesday. "If I didn't, then we wouldn't have searched and talked to every federal agency about whether there were any warrants that existed."
Both Burr and Nunes have said they have yet to see any evidence that Trump was wiretapped by then-President Barack Obama last year -- an allegation he tweeted almost two weeks ago, which has only added fuel to a trio of Russia investigations on Capitol Hill.
    "We don't have any evidence that that took place and in fact I don't believe -- just in the last week of time, the people we've talked to -- I don't think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower," Nunes said earlier Wednesday.
    But Nunes cautioned against reading too much into what the President says.
    "I think the challenge here is that President Obama wouldn't physically go over and wiretap Trump tower. So now you have to decide, as I mentioned to you last week, are you going to take the tweets literally, and if you are, then clearly the President was wrong. But if you're not going to take the tweets literally and if there's a concern that the President has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates -- either appropriately or inappropriately -- we want to find that out."
    "I think it's all in the interpretation of what you believe," Nunes concluded.
    Nunes advised Trump during the transition and has routinely defended the President in briefings about the House's investigation into Russian interference in the US elections, but has also joined with Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in pressing for answers from the Department of Justice and supporting public hearings.
    The word "wiretap" is a specific term that can't be used to describe surveillance more broadly, Schiff told CNN's Erin Burnett Wednesday night.
    "It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious," Schiff said. "No, wiretap is a wiretap. And particularly when he elaborates that he believed that President Obama was tapping his phones. So, I certainly don't think wiretap is broad enough to cover what is really a baseless accusation, a complete fabrication by the President of The United States."
    Trump's claims make the US look a lot like Russia, Schiff added.
    "When you have a President of the United States saying basically 'Putin is right, I've been bugged by my predecessor, we're equally corrupt,' that just feeds that whole destructive narrative," he said.
    Burr, who is leading one of the three Congressional investigations into Russia's interference in the US election, said he plans to announce details of the Senate Intelligence Committee's first public hearing soon. It will be focused on "Russian active measures in the 2016 elections."