A week after President Trump unleashed illegal wiretapping allegations against former President Barack Obama, he has yet to provide evidence for his claims or withdraw them, leaving puzzled legislators and intelligence officials to piece together the scenario.
Uncertainty surrounding the remarks has brought continued criticism from both the left and right, as many note the weight such allegations can have on American’s trust in their government.
“The president has one of two choices, either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve,” Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning. “I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute.”
“If the allegation is left out there, it undermines the confidence the American people have in the entire way that the government does business,” he added.
Early last Saturday, Mr. Trump tweeted the accusation, surprising several top White House staffers who seemed unaware of the incident when later asked for comment.
"Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory,” he wrote. “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."
Intelligence officials say no such or wiretapping or surveillance of the Trump campaign took place. Still, the president has asked Congress to launch an investigation.
Mr. McCain first said on Monday that Trump should come forward with evidence.
On Monday of this week, the White House is expected to provide the House Intelligence Committee with any evidence that spurred Trump’s claims, as a letter sent to the Justice Department requested.
Several other top lawmakers have joined McCain in the call for Trump to back up his accusations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has asked for the Trump’s administration to provide “copies of any warrant applications and court orders – redacted as necessary … related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower.”
The accusations come as US politics are growing increasingly volatile. Trust in the American political system has steadily declined in recent years, and just 19 percent of Americans in 2015 said they trusted the government at least most of the time. Early this year, Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States to a “flawed democracy,” following years of political polarization and a growing lack of confidence in government.
"When there’s a lack of confidence and trust then you lose those values that hold society together and ... we lose sight of the common good," Robert Denton, head of the communication department at Virginia Tech and co-author of "Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy: The End of the Social Contract," previously told The Christian Science Monitor. "That erodes the fabric of democracy."
Should Trump’s stunning claims prove true, Mr. Obama could face serious legal repercussions for the abuse of power.
But if the allegations are shown to be false, they could still carry implications for the state of the nation. As the political climate continues to experience deep divides that many believe could have a lasting impact on the country’s shared values, calls for ethics have amplified.
Some have noted that the president could work directly with intelligence officials to corroborate or uncover evidence to refute his claims and quell surveillance anxieties, but others say Congress can properly safeguard sensitive information while investigating.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California, a ranking member of the intelligence committee, said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that he was doubtful any evidence of wiretapping would be brought, but that FBI Director James Comey and others called to testify would have to provide any such information.
"I think on March 20 if not before we'll be able to put this to rest," he said, speaking to host George Stephanopoulos. ''I don't think anyone has any question about this, George. The only question is why the president would make up such a thing."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.