Addressing his claims that President Obama wiretapped his campaign, President Trump told German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday with tongue in cheek that they have “something in common.”
When a German reporter asked Mr. Trump about his allegation at a White House press conference, Mr. Trump glanced at Mrs. Merkel and replied, “As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.” The East Room filled with laughter.
The Obama administration was forced to admit in 2013 that Mr. Obama had allowed U.S. spy agencies to eavesdrop on the German leader’s mobile phone calls, which stoked an international furor.
Mr. Trump said on Twitter two weeks ago that Mr. Obama had wiretapped his campaign headquarters during the presidential race last year. Mr. Obama has denied it, and the White House has offered no specific proof aside from media reports about alleged surveillance.
Asked if he ever regrets some of his tweets, Mr. Trump replied, “very seldom.”
“I can get around the media, when the media doesn’t tell the truth. So I like that,” Mr. Trump said.
The president also rejected a reporter’s suggestion that the White House is blaming British intelligence officials for helping Mr. Obama to conduct surveillance on his campaign.
“We said nothing,” Mr. Trump said. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind [Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano], who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”
Citing intelligence sources, Mr. Napolitano said this week that Mr. Obama “went outside the chain of command” to get help from Britain with surveillance of Trump Tower.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer read aloud to journalists Thursday a series of news reports about alleged surveillance in 2016, including the Fox report that contended Mr. Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, to spy on Mr. Trump.
“There’s widespread reporting that throughout the 2016 election, there was surveillance that was done on a variety of people,” Mr. Spicer said Thursday, adding that the president “stands by” his original accusation.
Mr. Spicer’s citing of the press report about GCHQ angered British officials, who complained to the administration. White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster reportedly tried to smooth over the incident with his British counterparts Friday.
Mr. Spicer told reporters after the press conference Friday, “I don’t think we regret anything.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday it has found no evidence that Trump Tower was under surveillance in 2016, contrary to Mr. Trump’s claims.
“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” said committee Chairman Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat.
• S.A. Miller contributed to this report.
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