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Trump refuses to back down from Obama wiretapping claims

Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump refused Friday to back down from claims that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped during the closing days of the presidential election even after congressional intelligence committees leaders said they had no evidence the incident happened.

Instead, Trump, standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cellphone had been tapped by the Obama administration, said at a news conference: "As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps."

Trump also refused to apologize for the White House's repetition of an unverified claim that Obama had employed a British spy agency to monitor him during the campaign.

"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."

Immediately after the news conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, "I don't think we regret anything."

Earlier in the day, the White House announced that British Ambassador Kim Darroch and Mark Lyall Grant, the British prime minister's national security adviser, had "expressed their concerns" about comments Spicer made Thursday at his daily news briefing.

In defending Trump, Spicer read remarks by Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano that alleged the British spy agency had been involved in the wiretapping.

"Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command," Spicer read from the Fox News report. "He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ. What is that? It's the initials for the British intelligence spying agency."

Spicer and Trump's national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, told British officials that Spicer was "simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story."

The wiretapping allegations have hung over the White House for two weeks, since Trump first alleged in a series of tweets that Obama had wiretapped his telephones at Trump Tower in New York. Democrats, and even some Republicans, have called on the president to apologize to Obama.

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