Senior GOP aide calls Trump's wiretapping claim a helpful distraction for GOP's ObamaCare repeal

Trump tweets kick off unhelpful news cycle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The White House spent a good part of Monday fielding questions about President Trump's tweeted, unsubstantiated claims over the weekend that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped his Trump Tower phones before the election, and while Trump is getting support from Fox News, Republicans in Congress are either staying mum or saying they've seen no evidence to support Trump's explosive allegations. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Trump was wrong and FBI Director James Comey is widely reported to have asked the Justice Department to publicly rebut the allegations, without success.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Monday said the American people "have a right to know on what basis the president of the United States said that his predecessor had broken the law by wiretapping Trump Tower." "The dimensions of this are huge" and "unprecedented," he added. "I have never heard of a president of the United States accusing his predecessor or any other president of the United States of violating the law." Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) called Trump's accusation an unwelcome distraction. "He probably got it right today on the immigration order," he said. "The flesh is coming on the bones of ObamaCare repeal and replace. It just steps on policy stories."

But one man's bug is another man's feature. "One senior congressional aide said the furor could perhaps prove helpful," The Wall Street Journal reports:

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Lawmakers are now taking up one of the most controversial pieces of the GOP agenda — the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. The legislation could lead to cuts in federal spending on Medicaid, a program that provides health care for the poor, and tax credits to people who don't get employer-provided insurance. With Democrats and the media focused on the wiretap allegations, the aide said, Republicans might face less scrutiny than would otherwise be the case as they try to pass major legislation. [The Wall Street Journal]

Either way, the tweeted allegations from Trump followed by scrambling by staffers to back him up is now a well-established pattern. "This is the yin and yang so many congressional Republicans feel about the Trump administration," Doug Heye, former RNC communications director, tells The Wall Street Journal. “While they were excited about... many administration policies, they know that these tweets and other things threaten the very agenda that they hope to enact."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.