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US Lawmakers Moving Quickly on Trump-related Probes

FILE - President Donald Trump is seen giving an interview in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Feb. 23, 2017.
FILE - President Donald Trump is seen giving an interview in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Feb. 23, 2017.

U.S. lawmakers are moving quickly to learn more about Russian meddling in last year's presidential election and to try to determine whether there is any substance to President Donald Trump's so-far unfounded claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his Trump Tower headquarters in the weeks before the voting.

Senators and congressmen on intelligence panels have been visiting the Central Intelligence Agency outside Washington in recent days to look at raw intelligence reports about Russian cybersecurity attacks aimed at helping Trump defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The lawmakers say they have been looking at binders of classified information the CIA collected, with more visits planned to the highly secure facility. Both the Senate and House intelligence committees plan public hearings in the coming weeks.

The U.S. intelligence community already has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking into the computer of Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta, with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks subsequently releasing thousands of his emails in the weeks before the November election. Many of the emails showed embarrassing, behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic operatives to help Clinton win the party's presidential nomination.

Meanwhile, the Republican majority on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday asked James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country's top law enforcement agency, to brief them on the Russian interference in the election.

In addition, the lawmakers said they want information on the "very serious allegations" involving Trump's claim last weekend that Obama ordered a wiretap on him.

A spokesman for Obama has said the wiretapping allegation is "simply false," and Trump has not offered any evidence to support his contention. Comey has asked the Justice Department to disavow Trump's allegation, but the agency so far has said nothing.

Under U.S. law, presidents cannot single-handedly order a wiretapping, but must obtain a court order, giving judges evidence to justify the electronic surveillance. James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, also has said the the wiretapping did not occur.

Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said they have asked the Justice Department and the FBI for any wiretapping evidence they might have in connection with Trump's claim.