UK Calls Trump Wiretap
March 17, 2017
Britain on Friday called
President Donald Trump’s claims that a British spy agency was involved
in wiretapping Trump Tower “ridiculous” and said it received assurances
from the White House that the claims wouldn’t be repeated.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May called comments made
Thursday by White House spokesman Sean Spicer “utterly ridiculous” and
said it would be impossible for Britain to spy on a U.S. citizen due to
an agreement signed between the two countries.
"We have made this clear to the administration and have received
assurances that these allegations will not be repeated," the spokesman
The White House later released a statement that said Britain's
Ambassador Kim Darroch and diplomat Sir Mark Lyall expressed their
concerns to Sean Spicer and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R.
McMaster. It said the Americans explained that Spicer was "simply
pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story."
On Thursday, Spicer cited a Fox News report to back up claims that the
British spy agency, known as GCHQ, was involved in wiretapping Trump
Tower. Fox host Andrew Napolitano claimed that "three intelligence
sources have informed Fox News that president Barack Obama went outside
the chain of command" to order the surveillance and that GCHQ was
A spokesman for the GCHQ denied the claims Thursday, saying: "Recent
allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ
being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then-president elect
The comments came as Spicer faced off with a roomful of reporters who
wanted to know why Trump keeps insisting the wiretapping claims are
true, even after top lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence
Committees say it never happened.
Spicer accused the journalists of "mischaracterizing" what happened in
the Senate committee.
He also accused reporters of "cherry picking" what they choose to cover,
and of ignoring House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes who said it was
"very possible" there was surveillance of Trump.
But Nunes said he does not believe Trump's phones were tapped.
Spicer said Trump put the word "wiretap" in quotes in his original
Twitter accusation. Spicer said that means there was widespread
surveillance if not actual phone taps.
But the two top senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee,
Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Mark Warner, said Thursday: “Based
on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump
Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United
States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”
Their statement followed one from House of Representatives Speaker Paul
Ryan, who also dismissed the president's explosive claim March 4 that
Obama ordered the eavesdropping. "We've cleared that up, that we see no
evidence of that," Ryan said.
Trump, however, told Fox News late Wednesday that he "very soon" will
produce evidence of Obama's actions. Top leaders of the House
Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that Trump's allegation is
unfounded, but the president said his administration "will be submitting
things" to the panel and that he perhaps will be speaking about his
claim next week.
"You're going to find some very interesting items coming to the
forefront over the next two weeks," Trump said.
Numerous congressional leaders, both opposition Democrats and
Republicans, have sharply rebuked Trump's claim that Obama wiretapped
Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper where the billionaire real estate
mogul ran his campaign, and his home before winning the White House.
Trump made the wiretapping charge against his predecessor two Saturdays
ago in a string of Twitter comments. One of them said: "Terrible! Just
found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before
Obama dismissed the allegation as "simply false," and Trump since then
has not substantiated his claim. Until the Fox interview, Trump dodged
reporters' questions about the allegation.
Trump told Fox his Twitter comment "really covers surveillance and many
other things. Nobody ever talks about the fact that [the words 'wire
tapped'] was in quotes, but that's a very important thing."
On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Republican Devin
Nunes, who has been supportive of Trump, held a news conference about
Trump's wiretapping allegation.
"We don't have any evidence that took place," he said. "I don't think
there was a tapping of Trump Tower."
The committee's top Democrat, Congressman Adam Schiff, agreed, saying:
"To date, I see no evidence [of Obama having ordered wiretapping], no
basis for that whatsoever."
Nunes and Schiff said they are waiting for information from the
Department of Justice by next Monday about whether the agency knows of
any court ordered wiretaps of Trump, but said they have learned of no
such bugging in their investigation. The congressional probe was
requested by the White House after Trump made his wiretapping
House Intelligence Committee also is looking at links between Trump
campaign aides and Russian officials during the billionaire real estate
mogul's long run for the White House, and in the weeks after he won the
Nunes said James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the country's top law enforcement agency, will testify next Monday
before the Intelligence Committee about the wiretapping allegation and
the agency's investigation of Russian meddling in the election aimed at
helping Trump win.
One key U.S. senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said, "I'm going
to get to the bottom of this. Congress is going to flex its muscle."
He vowed, if need be, to subpoena the FBI to determine whether any U.S.
judge issued a secret wiretapping order that the FBI carried out.