WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Sunday reiterated that he is unaware of any intelligence information that indicates the Obama Administration in any form applied or asked for surveillance of President Trump’s team before or after the election.
"No," McConnell said, later adding, "the committee is going to conduct this investigation. You asked me if I knew anything about alleged wiretapping by the previous president. The answer is no.”
Both the Senate and the House intelligence committees have been looking into the issue ever since President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets in early March accusing the former president of ordering a wiretap of Trump Tower before the election.
This is while both committees are investigating Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 election.
While the House Intelligence Committee has been wrapped up in a visible gulf emerging between its two chairs, McConnell on Sunday defended the work of the Senate’s committee.
“It’s pretty clear the contrast here," he said. "The Senate committee, [Republican North Carolina Senator Richard] Burr and [Democratic Virginia Senator Mark] Warner had a joint press conference last week. They basically locked arms and said, 'We’re going to go wherever the facts take us.' So I think the American people can depend on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation to be done on a bipartisan basis and to go wherever the facts lead us."
The Senate Intelligence Committee held their first open hearing this week related to Russia’s attempts to try to influence the electorate ahead of the election.
One of their witnesses was Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and current fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Watts on Sunday spoke to "Meet The Press" about some active measures he says he saw Russians using to try to influence Americans before the election.
"The new social media that's out there, Twitter, Facebook, and the way advertisements are done, the way you can demographically target people, the same way we see it with our own political campaigns in the United States, you can use that as an adversary as well,” he said. “So what they do is they create automated technology, commonly referred to as bots, to create what look like armies of Americans.”
As he did in his Senate testimony, Watts cited instances where he saw the Trump campaign pick up on some messages from Russian outlets.
"President Trump mistakenly cited what everyone thinks is a Sputnik news story," he said. "But beyond that, the synchronization at times, how many times the campaign picked up on lines that were promoted by the Kremlin, or vice versa, created lines that were then the Kremlin promoted back into the U.S. base was ironic. It was hard to see that with any other campaign."
Watts said that wasn’t necessarily the Kremlin’s motive.
"I don't think they saw him as a person to spread the news," he added. "They just knew that he was opportunistic during his campaign. So if you put stuff that helps his campaign, he will likely use it. And they really turned towards him in August of '15. That's when you started to see those stories pop up. But they also pushed for Bernie Sanders at times too. They would go on the left and the right. It's bipartisan."