Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Culture | By Julio Duncan

White House backs down from claim GCHQ spied on Trump

White House backs down from claim GCHQ spied on Trump

Spicer, the White House press secretary, spoke with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to Washington, on Thursday night to try to smooth over the unusual rupture between the United States and its closest global ally.

During the question and answer period following Spicer's stunning read of reporting from sources like Heat Street and Sean Hannity, he got into it with CNN's Jim Acosta and CBS's Major Garrett.

The two men had a heated exchange as Acosta was asking Spicer about evidence related to President Donald Trump's accusation that Trump Tower was wiretapped before the 2016 election.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday quoted Napolitano's comments about GCHQ during a testy briefing with reporters.

Detailing a long list of reports about the wiretap claims, Mr Spicer quoted Mr Napolitano as saying: "Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command - he didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he didn't use the Department of Justice - he used GCHQ".

But the claim was dismissed as "nonsense" by the United Kingdom eavesdropping agency in a highly unusual public statement.

"We have a close special relationship with the White House and that allows us to raise concerns as and when they arise as was true in this case".

He added: "We have received assurances that these allegations won't be repeated and this shows the administration doesn't give the allegations any credence".

May's spokesman pointed to the limits on employing intelligence capabilities imposed on Britain and the United States - along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand - under the so-called "Five Eyes" pact.

"He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the Central Intelligence Agency, he didn't use the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he didn't use the Department of Justice", Mr Napolitano said, claiming that Mr Obama used Britain's GCHQ to circumvent U.S. law. You can not have his official spokesman making allegations against a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation government.

May's spokesman argued this pact precluded the kind of spying alleged by Napolitano, saying: "I would add as a matter of fact that under the "Five Eyes" intelligence agreement, we can not use each other's capabilities to circumvent the law. It's a situation that simply wouldn't arise".

Andrew Napolitano, a legal pundit for Fox News who has advised Trump, claimed during a March 14 telecast that three intelligence sources told the network that Obama personally appealed to the British Government Communications Headquarters, known as the GCHQ, to spy on Trump.

Trump originally made the allegations against Obama on March 4 in a series of early morning tweets.

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