Nearly two weeks ago, Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano was reportedly pulled from the air for making baseless claims that British intelligence officials spied on Donald Trump in 2016 at the request of then-President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday morning, Napolitano returned to the network, making an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” His first order of business? Doubling down on the claims that got him suspended in the first place.
Host Bill Hemmer asked Napolitano whether he stood by his March 14 report that Obama “went outside the chain of command” to request that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, wiretap Trump Tower. At the time, Napolitano said he had based his charge on three “intelligence sources” but did not name them.
“Yes, I do, and the sources stand by it,” Napolitano told Hemmer on Wednesday. “And the American public needs to know more about this rather than less because a lot of the government surveillance authorities will expire in the fall and there’ll be a great debate about how much authority we want the government to have to surveil us. And the more the American public knows about this, the more informed their and Congress’s decisions will be.”
“So, no change then?” Hemmer asked him.
“Correct,” Napolitano confirmed.
“And we’ll see how this story plays out,” Hemmer added.
“We will,” Napolitano said. “I think a lot more’s going to come.”
Before Wednesday, Napolitano had not appeared on the network since March 16, the Los Angeles Times reported. Though Fox News never issued a statement regarding his report or his status, sources told the newspaper that he “was being kept off the air and that management addressed the matter with him.”
It is unclear if Napolitano would be disciplined again for repeating the same allegations. A Fox News spokeswoman on Wednesday told The Washington Post that “the matter was addressed internally.” She declined to comment further.
Napolitano’s first report followed Trump’s sudden and angry accusations in early March that Obama had engaged in a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to spy on him at Trump Tower.
Citing no evidence, the president unleashed a torrent of tweets alleging that Obama had had Trump’s “wires tapped” and decrying him as a “Bad (or sick) guy!”
Since then, the Trump administration has not provided any evidence to support the president’s allegations. At a March 16 news conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer quoted from Napolitano’s Fox News report to defend Trump’s claims.
“All we’re doing is literally reading off what other stations and people have reported,” Spicer told reporters then. “We’re not casting judgment on that.”
Testifying before Congress last week, FBI Director James B. Comey shot down the president’s claims.
“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ Comey said. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI.”
In a rare public statement, GCHQ slammed the reports as “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous.” National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers later said he agreed with the agency’s statement.
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then President-Elect are nonsense,” a statement issued by the GCHQ said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
Napolitano is a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and author of numerous books on the U.S. Constitution. He has served as a “senior judicial analyst” for Fox News since 1998, according to his website.
Derek Hawkins contributed to this report.