Trump continues to defend wiretapping claims

WASHINGTON — President Trump's unraveling claims that his New York offices were wiretapped by the Obama administration continued to shadow him Friday when during a White House meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the president once again defended his surveillance allegations.

"At least we have something in common, perhaps,'' Trump said during a joint news conference with the German leader, referencing past disclosures during the Obama administration that Merkel's cellphone had been monitored.

Trump, however, rejected suggestions that the White House also was casting suspicion on Britain's intelligence service for reportedly collaborating with the Obama administration on alleged surveillance of Trump offices.

"All we did was quote a very talented legal mind,'' Trump said, referring to a disputed Fox News account by commentator Andrew Napolitano alleging that President Obama used Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to conduct Trump surveillance.

British officials repudiated the claim after White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday offered the report as possible evidence that such surveillance had taken place.

The GCHQ characterized the claim as "nonsense, while Prime Minister Theresa May, through a spokesman, described it as "ridiculous.''

"We have made clear to the [U.S.] administration that these claims are ridiculous and that they should be ignored and we have received assurances that these allegations won't be repeated," the spokesman said.

Spicer, following Trump's remarks during the brief Friday news conference, was not yielding.

"I don't think we regret anything," Spicer said. "We just reiterated the fact that we were just simply reading media accounts."

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said on air just after Trump's press conference that the network cannot confirm Napolitano's account and has "no evidence of any kind" that Trump was under surveillance.

Trump's continued defense of the surveillance allegations come after the claims have been strongly discredited by the bipartisan leadership of both the Senate and House intelligence committees earlier this week.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday flatly refuted Trump's claims that his New York offices were wiretapped in advance of the November election.

“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," Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement.

A day earlier, the House Intelligence Committee offered a similar assessment, leaving the White House virtually alone in asserting the surveillance claim.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, confirmed Friday that it has “complied’’ with requests from leaders of the Senate and House intelligence panels to provide information about whether Trump offices were subject to surveillance during the 2016 election.

The department did not disclose what information was provided to the committees.

© 2017 USA TODAY


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