President Donald Trump's controversial allegation that the Obama administration wiretapped his Trump Tower in New York wilted further Thursday when two top US senators said they saw no evidence to back the claim.
Republican Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the committee's Democratic vice chair Mark Warner, said in a statement that they had received no information to support Trump's claim, made in a tweet on March 4.
"Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," they said.
On March 4, Trump sparked a furor with tweets that accused former President Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap on the New York skyscraper, where Trump and his family live and run his real estate empire.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
"Is it legal for a sitting President to be 'wire tapping' a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!" he wrote in a second tweet.
Obama quickly issued a denial, and the White House was swamped with questions of whether Trump's claim was credible. While he had offered no evidence, the president can access information on law enforcement and intelligence investigations, and possibly possessed some classified information supporting the claim.
But increasingly it has appeared baseless. On Wednesday the two heads of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee also said they had received no information that would back the Trump tweets, and earlier this week top White House aide Kellyanne Conway said she did not know anything to justify it.
In an interview late Wednesday with Fox News, Trump was asked how he found out about the alleged wiretapping. He answered that a number of news reports had mentioned the possibility.
"I had been reading about things" that mentioned wiretapping, he said.
"Don't forget: when I say wiretap, those words were in quotes... because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things," he added.
Faced with rejections of the allegations by top legislators of both parties, White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended Trump's claims Friday, saying the president "stands by" them.
"I think the president has been very clear when he talked about this," Spicer told reporters.
"When he talked about it last night, talked about wiretapping, he meant surveillance."
Spicer read aloud to reporters news reports from recent months that suggested there could have been spying on Trump Tower or the Trump campaign, and said people should wait for the formal conclusion of any investigations.
"The bottom line is the president said last night that he will be providing -- there would be additional information coming forward. There is a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the 2016 election," Spicer said.