President Donald Trump has doubled down on claims that former President Barack Obama had his phones tapped in Trump Tower in the months leading up to the election. He made this claim, one he later walked back on, from a collection of misread news articles, ones focusing on US surveillance of Russian officials who were in contact with members of Trump’s campaign. Trump’s latest source for his claim appears to be Judge Andrew Napolitano, the top judicial analyst for Fox News, who over the course of a day, evolved his hazy assumption of the supposed wiretapping to throw the blame onto the GCHQ, the British equivalent to the NSA.
In a rare move, the GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters, put out a statement unequivocally denying that President Obama had used them to surveil Mr. Trump.
The incident began when President Trump issued a series of tweets early morning March 4, accusing Obama of wire-tapping his phones before the election. Obama, who has recused himself largely to private life as a citizen, strongly denied the accusation through a spokesperson.
However, Thursday afternoon, Spicer both managed to deny that Trump meant wiretapping when he tweeted “wiretapping” and also repeated comments made by Napolitano, in an act many took as Trump doubling down on his claims, despite providing no evidence of wiretapping. Spicer read through several reports that he felt supported Trump’s claim, though none directly pointed to Trump’s accusation that Obama was behind it. Spicer’s list included Sean Hannity, various small web outlets, and Napolitano. Throughout it all, Spicer only pointed to evidence that said that Trump associates could have been swept into the larger surveillance, but does not point to any evidence that supports the central claim accusing Barack Obama.
Spicer defended his actions on Friday stating that the White House was not accusing Britain of anything, but rather “passing on news reports,” and would not apologize for any misunderstanding. That goes directly again earlier White House reports that, in a “cordial” conversation with his British counterpart, national security adviser General H.R. McMaster had called Spicer’s comments “unintentional.” According to the official, McMaster promised that British concerns were heard and would be relayed to the White House.
Trump has not presented any reputable evidence for Obama wiretapping him because there is none. A sitting president cannot order wiretapping on an individual, much less his successor, without extreme due cause. Furthermore, there are multiple protocols in place to prevent presidents from wiretapping for personal gain.
Trump’s incendiary falsehoods, and we can call them falsehoods because there is no truth behind them, have not been endorsed or proven by any justice official. The Justice Department had a deadline of more than 10 days to provide evidence that supported Trump’s claim and could offer none.
Trump has made a habit of firing off insane Tweets only to have the messes he creates cleaned up, haphazardly, by his elected officials. On talk show appearances, adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested that microwaves could be used as surveillance. Spicer claimed that when Trump accused “Obama” of “wiretapping,” he didn’t mean “Obama” or “wiretapping.” But the sense that we are getting is that of a wildly unpredictable, paranoid and fearful president, one whose mood swings are proving dangerous for international and domestic relations.