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Comment: Republicans are threatening to expose Trump as the emperor with no clothes

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 15/03/2017 Aaron Blake

Editor's note: The opinions in this article are the author's, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

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It's almost as though Republicans are tired of having President Trump's evidence-free allegations laid at their feet. Almost.

A spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) threatened to subpoena the Trump administration to produce evidence of Trump's claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign.

The White House has declined to produce this evidence publicly, offering various excuses, including the Constitution's separation of powers and — most recently on Monday — arguing that Trump wasn't speaking literally when he made the claim.

The Justice Department missed Nunes's deadline to provide evidence, which drew Nunes's subpoena threat.

“If the committee does not receive a response, the committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said.

US President Donald Trump. © AFP Photo US President Donald Trump. Then Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made his own threat.

Last week, Graham — who is clearly skeptical of the wiretapping claim and chairs a subcommittee looking into it — asked the Justice Department and the FBI to provide copies of any warrants or court orders related to the alleged wiretapping. Having not received anything, Graham said Tuesday that he would announce his next steps Wednesday and may push for a special committee.

“They're about to screw up big time if they keep running to the intel committee and not answer that letter,” Graham said, according to CBS's Alan He. He added: “If they don't honor this request and give us an answer, then I would say that we need a joint select committee because regular order is not working.”

It's clear as day what's going on here.

The White House's reactions to Trump's evidence-free claims — be it this one or the one about millions of illegal votes in 2016 — is to call for investigations.

That has the triple benefit of putting the onus on someone else to look into it, to buy some time and hope people forget that the president is making such wild allegations, and in this case to give themselves an excuse to clam up. The White House initially said that it wouldn't comment on Trump's wiretapping claim while it was being investigated, and then it said it couldn't provide evidence because of separation of powers — another claim that strained credulity.

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Donald Trump's most outrageous quotes But that also puts Republicans such as Nunes and Graham in the position of having to account for these claims — and calling on Trump and his team to put up or shut up. By pushing the administration to produce evidence — or else — they are effectively putting the ball back in the executive branch's court. The subtext: You can't just make these claims and then ask us to deal with the fallout.

Nunes in particular has faced some very tough questions from reporters, and he must feel as though he's being hung out to dry. Graham's angle is slightly different, in that he clearly doesn't think Trump's claim is accurate and wants to prove it. “If there is no warrant, then we’ll have solved this problem: There was no wiretapping,” he said this week.

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