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A spokesman for Britain’s prime minister says the White House has promised that it won’t repeat a claim that U.K. spies snooped on U.S. President Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, says the British government has made it clear to the U.S. that the “ridiculous” claims should be ignored. He said Friday that Washington has assured Britain they will not be repeated.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday cited Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, who suggested that the British electronic surveillance agency GCHQ had helped then-President Barack Obama spy on Trump before last year’s presidential election.
GCHQ took the unusual step of releasing a statement calling the claims “nonsense.”
It said “they are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
According to CNN, the White House apologized for Spicer’s citing of the unfounded Fox News report. Citing an anonymous official, CNN reported that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster spoke with his British counterpart during a “cordial” conversation where McMaster described Spicer’s comment as “unintentional.”
“Mr. Spicer and Gen. McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story,” one official said.
WH press secretary Sean Spicer comments on the bipartisan rebuke of President Trump’s wiretap allegations https://t.co/frf6DZTOH1
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 16, 2017
Trump tried to distance himself from the report Friday.
“All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television,” Trump told reporters during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “You shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”
Spicer, speaking with reporters, later added: “I don’t think we regret anything.”
“We have a close, special relationship with the White House and that allows us to raise concerns as and when they arise as was true in this case,” said May spokesman James Slack. “We have made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and that they should be ignored and we have received assurances that these allegations won’t be repeated,” he told reporters at a regular briefing on Friday.
During the joint conference, Trump also stood by his unproven claim that former President Obama wiretapped his phones, suggesting he was the victim of the same sort of surveillance the Obama administration was once alleged to have used to monitor Merkel’s calls.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said, prompting a confused look from Merkel.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps”: Trump addresses wiretapping claim in news conference with Merkel https://t.co/XY65IHa33F pic.twitter.com/INQRkmhXPf
— CNN (@CNN) March 17, 2017
Merkel was making her first visit to the White House since Trump took office.
During the conference, Trump also said he “seldom” regrets any of his tweets. He also appeared to ignore a request to shake Merkel’s hand during the photo op.
When asked to shake hands by reporters and photographers, Trump and Merkel didn’t budge https://t.co/Av1S0FkWod pic.twitter.com/JGhRaywDDW
— CNN (@CNN) March 17, 2017
March 17, 5 p.m. ET: Updated with Trump’s joint conference.
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