UK

Trump distances White House from GCHQ wiretap claim

  • 17 March 2017
  • From the section UK
US President Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

Donald Trump has said he did not "make an opinion" over claims the UK's GCHQ spy agency carried out wiretapping on him during the US election campaign.

Speaking at a press conference in Washington, Mr Trump said the White House had quoted a legal commentator who appeared on US TV channel Fox News.

GCHQ rejected allegations made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, that it spied on Mr Trump, as "nonsense".

Downing Street says it has been assured the US will not repeat the claims.

Mr Trump was asked by a German reporter after the president's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel about British involvement in the wiretapping claims, which the White House has provided no evidence for.

"We said nothing, all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on TV," said President Trump.

"I didn't make opinion on it, that was statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox [News]", he added, saying that reporters "shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox".

Speaking in Washington, Mr Trump stood by claims that he was wiretapped under Mr Obama's leadership, but did not name a particular intelligence agency.

He quipped to visiting Mrs Merkel that "we have something in common, perhaps", suggesting that they were both spied on by his predecessor.

Media captionSean Spicer, the White House press secretary, repeated the wiretap claims

The allegations of GCHQ involvement were initially made by former judge Andrew Napolitano on US TV channel Fox News.

He said "intelligence sources" had said "President Obama went outside the chain of command".

Mr Napolitano added: "[Mr Obama] 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 the heck is GCHQ? That's the initials for the British spying agency."

The claim was later repeated by White House press secretary Mr Spicer but dismissed by GCHQ as "utterly ridiculous".

'Should be ignored'

In an unusual step by the agency, it issued a statement saying the claims "should be ignored".

It said: "Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president-elect are nonsense."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said it had been made clear to US authorities the claims were "ridiculous and should have been ignored".

Media captionWhat do you make of Mr Trump's demeanour?

Dominic Grieve, chairman of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee - which oversees the UK's spy agencies - said while it was "unusual" for GCHQ to issue a public statement, "it clearly indicates the strength of feeling about this issue, and I echo that sentiment".

Mr Trump and his allies have yet to prove that his phone was tapped by Mr Obama during the presidential race.

A Senate committee on Thursday concluded that there were "no indications" Trump Tower was under surveillance by the US government before or after the election.

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