President Donald Trump, confronted over his explosive claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor, said during a Friday press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that
he and Merkel “have something in common, perhaps.”
The jab was a reference to reports in 2013 that the National Security Agency, under President Barack Obama, had been intercepting Merkel’s phone calls and spying on German officials. Der Spiegel reported at the time that the NSA had been using the US embassy in Berlin as a listening station.
Merkel called Obama in October 2013 and demanded he explain the reports that the NSA had been intercepting her calls, and Germany launched an investigation into the matter. The White House denied that Merkel had ever been a surveillance target and the probe was ultimately dropped. But many experts said later that it is fairly standard practice for friendly nations to spy on each other.
Trump made the comment as the White House faced a new wave of backlash related to Trump’s wiretapping accusations against Obama. On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer read from unverified reports that said a British intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, conspired with former President Barack Obama to wiretap Trump before the election.
The accusation was first leveled by Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News.
Spicer’s comment prompted a near-immediate reaction from GCHQ, which released a rare public statement categorically denying any involvement and calling the accusation “utterly ridiculous.”
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense,” the statement read. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
When asked on Thursday if the White House regrets accusing the UK of helping President Obama wiretap Trump Tower, Trump replied that “all we did was quote” a Fox commentator, so “you should be talking to Fox.”
Watch the full exchange below:
German reporter asks about Trump’s wiretapping claims.
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