Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary and occasional Easter Bunny, went on national TV yesterday and said that President Obama used British intelligence sources to spy on Donald Trump. GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, responded with a rare public statement flatly denying the charge. And now Spicer has reportedly apologized personally to the British intelligence agency.
[Update, 12:44pm: See below for attempts by White House officials to soften claims that a formal apology was made.]
“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command,” Spicer alleged in a press conference yesterday. “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.”
But the Telegraph is reporting that Spicer himself made an apology to GCHQ today, which is probably wise, given the fact that his “sources” were talking heads on Fox News. And Spicer wasn’t the only one apologizing. The Telegraph reports that General McMaster, the National Security Adviser who replaced the disgraced Michael Flynn, personally apologized as well.
“Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense,” GCHQ said in a rare statement. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
Trump sent out a series of tweets last weekend saying that he had found evidence that he had been wiretapped by Obama. When asked this week by Tucker Carlson of Fox News about where he got that information, he claimed that it was in news reports. Those news reports did not demonstrate the things that Trump claims they did.
“Well, I’ve been reading about things,” Trump told Carlson. “I read in, I think it was January 20 a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article, I think they used that exact term. I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping. I said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about. I’ve been seeing a lot of things.”
So, just to recap, Trump didn’t ask the FBI or any of the intelligence agencies at his disposal about wiretapping. He misread something in the New York Times and half-heard something unrelated on Fox News.
The Senate Intelligence committee has been investigating the claims that former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Yesterday that committee announced that it had found no evidence to back up Trump’s claims. Paul Ryan has also said that he’s seen nothing to substantiate the allegations that President Obama spied on Trump.
It will certainly be interesting to see if Spicer denies the reports that he apologized. Any sign of weakness, including an apology, is generally not tolerated in the Trump administration. It could not be confirmed by press time whether Spicer was wearing a bunny suit while he apologized.
Update, 12:44pm: The White House is already walking back claims that Spicer made a formal apology.
One unnamed Trump administration source told Buzzfeed that while the British government “demanded an apology” the National Security Counsel “worked overnight to try and smooth things over.”
Because, of course. Why would the White House apologize for anything ever? You shouldn’t apologize if you’ve never done anything wrong.