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Trump 'vindicated' as senator backs up surveillance claims


US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Getty Images

US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, yesterday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump has said he feels vindicated in his claims that he was wiretapped by his predecessor Barack Obama after it emerged some of his communications did make their way into intelligence reports.

Mr Trump was speaking after Congressman Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the allegations, said communications of Mr Trump and officials working for his transition team were "monitored" after the election.

Asked if there was a possibility Mr Trump could have essentially been correct in his claims that he was spied on, Mr Nunes said: "It's possible."

But he said physical phone-tapping of Trump Tower "did not happen".

Mr Nunes said he could not reveal further details of who or what the agencies were targeting when they collected Mr Trump's communications. "It's all classified information," he told reporters.

Asked if he felt vindicated by the revelation, Mr Trump said: "I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found."

Only this week, FBI director James Comey had said there was no evidence to back up Mr Trump's assertions. Mr Nunes may have gone some way towards doing that, although he said the Trump team was not the target of surveillance but was part of an "incidental collection", which he said was legal.

Mr Nunes said the intercepted communications were not related to an ongoing FBI inquiry into suggestions of contacts between Trump associates and Russia. The information was brought to him through "proper channels" by people believed to be in the US intelligence community.

Asked if he believed Mr Trump's transition team was spied on, he said: "It all depends on one's definition of spying."

Mr Nunes did not say how the communications were picked up but US intelligence agencies routinely monitor the communications of foreign officials. That surveillance sometimes includes Americans whom the foreigner is speaking to or about.

Speaking outside the White House, Mr Nunes said: "The president had a right to know these reports are out there. What I have seen bothers me and I think it should bother the president and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate."

Meanwhile, it was claimed yesterday that Mr Trump's former campaign manager made proposals that would burnish the image of Vladimir Putin's government, while bidding for a multi-million pound contract with a Russian oligarch.

Paul Manafort, a political consultant who ran Mr Trump's electoral campaign for four months last year, produced a business strategy to improve perceptions of the Russian government abroad in 2005, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Mr Manafort was then hired and paid for the work by Oleg Deripaska, an aluminium billionaire who is close to the Kremlin, AP said.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Mr Manafort allegedly wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska, cited by the agency.

The effort, Mr Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government." He later signed a $10m contract with Mr Deripaska.

Also yesterday, Mr Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, assured a Senate committee that he has never been asked to make any promises on rulings by the president's administration that he would have "walked out the door" if he had been asked to overturn the groundbreaking abortion-rights case, Roe versus Wade.

The Senate Judiciary Committee were meeting for the second day of Mr Gorsuch's confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court seat, amid concerns from Democrats that Mr Gorsuch will be beholden to the man that nominated him.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the Judiciary Committee, began by questioning Mr Gorsuch on his independence from politics.

Mr Gorsuch said that was a "softball" question, easy for him to answer definitively.

"I decide cases...it makes me think of [Supreme Court Justice] Byron White," Mr Gorsuch said. He noted that he admired Mr White's "fierce, rugged independence."

Mr Gorsuch went on to cite the Oath of Supreme Court Justices, saying "[I will] administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich."

"I leave all the other stuff at home," said Mr Gorsuch.

"When I became a judge, they gave me a gavel not a rubber stamp," Mr Gorsuch said, adding that no one, including the president, was "above the law." (© Daily Telegraph London)