The Trump administration repeats “ridiculous” unfounded allegations by Fox News regarding British intelligence services in an attempt to cover his embarrassment.
Trump administration formally apologizes to the UK after the White House accused British Intelligence of helping Pres. Obama spy on Trump.
British news organization The Telegraph reports that “The US has made a formal apology to Britain after the White House accused GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump in the White House.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated claims by Fox News that President Obama had enlisted the aid of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to spy on Trump.
[O]n Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement. “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 FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ, what is that? It’s the initials for the British Intelligence Spying Agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, ‘the President needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,’ he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.”
The Telegraph reports that those comments by Spicer prompted a furious response from GCHQ, which in a break from normal practice issued a public statement: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
Another British news organization, The Guardian, reports that Spicer’s comments are compromising relations between the USA and the UK:
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats – the junior partner in the last British coalition government – said Trump was “compromising the vital UK-US security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment”.
In the wake of British outrage, The Telegraph reports that the White House apologized for those remarks:
Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. “The apology came direct from them,” a source said.
General McMaster contacted Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Prime Minister’s National Security adviser, to apologise for the comments. Mr Spicer conveyed his apology through Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s US ambassador.
The Guardian reports that a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said the White House had told the British ambassador and the UK’s national security adviser that Spicer had been instructed not to repeat those “ridiculous” claims.
“I don’t want to get into private conversations, but we’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored,” the spokesman said, adding: “We’ve received assurances these allegations won’t be repeated.”
The Guardian also reports that “Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former chair of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, demanded the White House withdraw the allegations and not merely say they would not be repeated. He said Spicer never had evidence for the allegations and made them only because he was desperate to justify Trump’s claim.”
In an interview with BBC Radio , Rifkind discussed Spicer’s allegations:
That’s just foolish and very dangerous stuff and President Trump better get a grip not only on his own press officer but on the kind of encouragement being given in the White House that makes a press officer make these stupid allegations in the first place. You don’t just quote from a Fox News report if you are the president’s official spokesman unless you have taken the trouble to find out if that report is justified.
For those unfamiliar with the organization, the GCHQ is the British equivalent of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. According to their website, the GCHQ “strive[s] to keep Britain safe and secure by working with our partners in the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and MI5.” Working side-by-side with those intelligence services and law enforcement, the primary goal of the GCHQ is to “defend Government systems from cyber threat, provide support to the Armed Forces and strive to keep the public safe, in real life and online.”