President Trump on Friday refused to back away from allegations that he was wiretapped by British intelligence at the behest of the Obama administration, pointing the finger instead at a Fox News commentator.
Roughly two weeks after Trump tweeted the extraordinary allegation that President Obama had ordered Trump Tower be wiretapped, judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said on Fox & Friends on Tuesday that three intelligence sources had told him Obama called on the services of the UK’s GCHQ intelligence agency to carry out the spying.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday then cited the Fox News segment while trying to defend Trump's allegation of wiretapping. That prompted GCHQ to break years of protocol and make a rare public comment, describing the claims as "utterly ridiculous."
Asked by a German reporter at a joint White House press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel to address the diplomatic row, Trump instead pointed the finger of blame at Fox News.
"All we did was quote a certain, very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television," Trump said. "I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox."
He also made a reference to documents published in 2015 by WikiLeaks that showed the National Security Agency had tapped phone calls involving Merkel and her advisers for years.
"As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps," he said gesturing to the German chancellor amid laughter from the audience.
Merkel did not laugh.
Not long after Trump's comments, Fox News' Shepard Smith said the network could not back Napolitano's claims.
"Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary," he said, referring to the legal analyst. "Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the president of the United States was surveilled at any time in any way — full stop."
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Jason Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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