Officials with the British government complained to the White House today after Donald Trump's spokesliar Sean Spicer cited a bogus Fox News report claiming that former President Barack Obama got help from U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ to spy on Donald Trump.
"Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wire tapping' against the then President Elect are nonsense," a GCHQ spokesperson said in an unusual public statement Thursday. "They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."
No word from the White House on whether the British government asked for Spicer to retract the comment, but who are we kidding, because nothing matters anymore and everything is terrible.
Spicer's comments Thursday came after the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said they had not seen any evidence to back up the president's allegations that Obama had spied on him.
"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," the panel's chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and vice chairman, Mark Warner of Virginia, said in a joint statement Thursday.
The White House has said that Trump's initial claims, posted in a flurry of tweets earlier this month, should not be taken literally. Officials have said Trump did not necessarily mean Obama personally ordered the surveillance, that wiretapping could refer to a broad range of surveillance efforts, and that the effort may not have specifically targeted Trump Tower in New York.
Here's what Spicer said during the press briefing today. For context, he'd just read off a long list of crap from the internet about Trump and Russia, and then:
"Last, on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement," Spicer said during the daily White House briefing.
"'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.'"
"Putting the published accounts and common sense together, this leads to a lot," Spicer said, by way of trying to offer proof for Trump's claim, but at the same time lending credence to the unfounded claim.
British officials aren't idiots, so they publicly acknowledged that Napolitano's reporting was bullshit. Spicer referencing it from the White House podium is not a good thing, where the historically critical U.S.-U.K. diplomatic relationship is concerned.
But remember, some people just want to destroy the state.
And from TIME:
GCHQ, the British government's signals intelligence agency and the equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency, was brought into the spiraling controversy over Donald Trump's claims that he was the subject of surveillance ordered by Obama on March 14 by Napolitano, a conservative Fox News personality.
In an interview with Fox & Friends, Napolitano claimed he had learned that Obama called on the British agency to spy on Trump, citing three unnamed sources. On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeated the claim, as he argued that the existence of media reports justified Trump's March 4 tweets accusing Obama of espionage targeted at his successor.
The Administration has struggled to justify Trump's charge for more than a week, as the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee jointly stated Thursday they've seen no evidence of any surveillance of Trump Tower. Even Trump allies in Congress are staying away from the claim, though Trump maintained Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he would be vindicated by new information "very soon." The White House has argued that Trump's use of quotation marks around the phrase wires tapped implied he meant all manners of surveillance against him, but hasn't offered any official proof of the claim, beyond reports in the press.