Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey asked the United States’ Justice Department to reject President Donald Trump’s allegations that his predecessor Barack Obama had ordered his phones to be tapped, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Officials told the Times that Comey called Trump’s allegations “false” with a need to be corrected.

The development, if true, gains significance as the investigating agency has taken on the president and cast aspersions on the truthfulness of his statements. Trump has been criticised of making statements without any evidence.

Officials said that the FBI chief has been lobbying to get the Justice Department to withdraw the claim as it implies that the investigating agency violated the law. Spokespersons for the FBI and Justice Department refused to comment on the matter, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Trump has also demanded a congressional investigation into Obama’s alleged abuse of federal law enforcement agencies discretion before the 2016 presidential election.

On March 5, Obama’s spokesperson had denied Trump’s claim that the former president had wire-tapped his phones during the presidential campaign last year. “No White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” said Kevin Lewis. “Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

Without providing proof, Trump had taken to Twitter to accuse Obama of staging a “Nixon/Watergate” by tapping his phones in his Trump Tower office and apartment building in New York in October last year. “How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process. Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election?” he said.

Senior officials of the Trump administration said White House Counsel Donald McGahn and his office are looking into the allegations, The Washington Post reported. Tapping into phone lines or Internet addresses is illegal unless a federal judge believes it is appropriate to investigate their possible use for spying on behalf of a foreign government.