President Trump refused to back off his unfounded allegations that former president Barack Obama last year wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower when asked about the subject during a joint news conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
After a German reporter asked Trump about the allegations, the president turned to Merkel and said “as far as the wiretapping … by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.”
Merkel was angered by reports in 2013 that the National Security Agency had tapped her phone in 2010 with the permission of Obama.
During Friday’s news conference, Trump also passed on an opportunity to apologize to Britain, whose leaders are seething over White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s reference Thursday to unproven allegations that Britain’s main surveillance agency spied on Trump at Obama’s request.
Trump suggested responsibility for those comments rests with Fox News, not the White House.
In trying to justify Trump’s initial allegations from nearly two weeks ago, Spicer read press clips to reporters on Thursday, including one from Fox News that featured Judge Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge and a regular commentator for Fox News.
Napolitano told Fox that three intelligence sources had said that Obama “went outside the chain of command” and used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters so “there’s no American fingerprints on this.”
“We said nothing,” Trump said during Friday's news conference. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox.”
“So you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox,” the president added.
Following the news conference, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said that the network could not confirm Napolitano's commentary.
“Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way. Full stop,” Shepard said on the air.
In recent days, both Trump and Spicer have said that Trump's allegations of “wire tapping” were meant to reference broader surveillance efforts — and not specifically wiretapping — but have otherwise not backed off Trump's initial claim, despite comments by leading House and Senate Republicans that they have no knowledge of any alleged surveillance.
Trump, who made his initial allegations about Obama through messages on Twitter, also told the German reporter that he “very seldom” regrets his tweets.
“I can get around the media when the media doesn’t tell the truth, so I like that,” Trump said.
After the news conference, Spicer told reporters remaining in the East Room of the White House that he did not regret having aired unfounded reports in defense of Trump.
“I don't think we regret anything,” Spicer said. “We literally listed a litany of media reports that were in the public domain.”
At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We have received assurances from the White House that these allegations would not be repeated.”
GCHQ, the British equivalent of the National Security Agency, earlier took the unusual step of publicly rebutting the claims made on Fox.
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wire tapping' against the then President Elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored,” GCHQ said in a statement.