U.S. President Donald Trump doubled down on his unsubstantiated claims of wiretapping last week, claiming that Barack Obama ordered Britain’s spy agency to secretly monitor him during his presidential campaign. In the process, Trump’s claims have agitated British officials.
Despite protest from one of the United States’ most important allies, Trump has decided he has no reason to retract the statement or apologize for it. He asserts the White House was merely repeating what was said by a Fox News commentator.
“We said nothing,” Trump said. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on televisions. I didn’t make an opinion on it. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox”.
This most recent claim is a continuation of the unsubstantiated assertions Trump made earlier this month that former president Barack Obama had wiretapped him during the campaign.
The recent incident unfolded after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, while defending Trump’s previous claims about Obama wiretapping him, read comments made by a Fox News commentator suggesting Obama had used British intelligence services to spy on Trump. Spicer defended his earlier claims.
“I don’t think we regret anything,” Spicer told reporters. “As the president said, I was just reading off media reports.”
Meanwhile, Fox News has distanced themselves from the claims made on their station by the news agency’s senior judicial analyst, Andrew Napolitano.
“Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” said Fox anchor Shepard Smith. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May responded to the allegations by calling them “ridiculous.”
“We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored,” said the spokesman. “We’ve received assurances these allegations won’t be repeated.”
Even fellow Republicans have lost patience with Trump on his assertions. Representative Tom Cole said Trump has failed to provide any evidence, and should apologize to Obama.
“Frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling truth, I think President Obama is owed an apology,” said Cole. “If he didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”
Trump’s critics were quick to point out how disastrous his mistake was.
“The cost of falsely blaming our closest ally for something this consequential cannot be overstated,” said Susan E. Rice, who served as Obama’s national security adviser, over Twitter.
Trump’s allegations have been denied by Obama, the former director of national intelligence, the current director of the FBI, and his own party’s leadership. The Republican chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, after being briefed on the issue, have revealed there is no evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims.
The original assertions made by Trump came a day after a Breitbart News article put forward the same claim. The article suggested Obama had wiretapped Trump during the campaign, citing another online publication, which in turn cited anonymous sources “close to the intelligence community.”