FBI director James Comey has rejected Donald Trump’s claim that his predecessor, Barack Obama, ordered a wiretap of his phone before he was elected US president, US media say.
Mr Comey reportedly asked the US justice department (DOJ) to publicly reject Saturday’s allegation, according to the New York Times and NBC.
He is said to have asked for this because the allegation falsely insinuated that the FBI broke the law.
The DOJ has not commented.
US media quoted officials as saying that Mr Comey believed there was no evidence to support Mr Trump’s allegation.
From an FBI director this is a startling rebuke of a sitting president and Mr Comey will be under pressure from Democrats to voice it publicly, the BBC’s Nick Bryant reports from Washington.
What did Trump allege?
The Republican president, who faces intense scrutiny over alleged Russian interference in support of his presidential bid, made the claims in a series of tweets on Saturday.
He offered no evidence to support his allegation that phones at Trump Tower were tapped last year.
His tweets followed allegations made by conservative radio host Mark Levin, including that the Obama administration “sought, and eventually obtained, authorisation to eavesdrop” on the Trump campaign last year.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer went on to say there had been “very troubling” reports “concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election”.
Did Obama really order a wiretap?
All the evidence indicates the answer is no. A spokesman for Mr Obama said Mr Trump’s allegation charge was “simply false”.
A warrant, if it existed, would most likely have been ordered by the Department of Justice independently of the White House.
The only way Mr Obama could have ordered surveillance without going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) court is if there was no US citizens involved.
In this case, considering the target is allegedly Trump Tower in New York – which would definitely have involved American citizens – this would have been hard to argue.