GCHQ has strongly denied claims from the White House that it played a part in wiretapping Donald Trump at the request of former US President Barack Obama, branding them ‘nonsense’ and ‘utterly ridiculous’.
Trump originally made the accusations via Twitter in early March, writing: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
He followed that up with: “I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” He added: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The claims were repeated more recently by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who cited reports on Fox News that former judge Andrew Napolitano had claimed GCHQ was involved. Spicer said Napolitano claimed Obama bypassed US intelligence agencies so “no American fingerprints” would be connected to the wiretap, the Telegraph said.
In response, GCHQ took the unusual step of commenting directly on a story. “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then President-elect are nonsense,” a spokesperson said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
A further statement from a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May indicated that the US would scale back its claims. “We've made clear to the US administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored. We've received assurances that these allegations won't be repeated,” the statement said.
The Telegraph also reported that both Spicer and US National Security Adviser General McMaster have formally apologized for the claims.
There is no evidence that Trump’s claims are true. A Senate intelligence panel concluded: “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.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan had also denied the wiretapping took place.