Spicer: Trump meant general surveillance when he tweeted about wiretapping

Spicer: Trump meant general surveillance when he tweeted about wiretapping

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefs the media (From WH.gov's livestream.)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump did not literally mean former President Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election when he tweeted just that on March 4, but rather that the Obama administration had him under general surveillance, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday.

“If you look at the president’s tweet, he said very clearly, quote, ‘wire tapping’ — in quotes,” Spicer said during a regular news briefing, making air quotes with his fingers. “There’s been substantial discussion in several reports… There’s been reports in The New York Times and the BBC and other outlets about other aspects of surveillance that have occurred. The president was very clear in his tweet that it was, you know, ‘wire tapping’ — that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options.”

Wiretapping specifically connotes secretly monitor a conversation via a listening device connected to a telephone line. This definition prompted skeptic’s of Trump’s claim to note that U.S. intelligence agencies generally do not collect information via wiretap.

Spicer elaborated that when Trump accused Obama of being behind the hack, whom he called a “Bad (or sick) guy,” he was referring to the Obama administration, not the 44th president himself.

The White House has called on Congress to investigate Trump’s claims as part of their investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The House Intelligence Committee has set a Monday deadline for the Department of Justice to provide any evidence of Trump’s unsubstantiated claims. It is unclear if the DOJ will meet this deadline.

Trump declined to answer questions about the DOJ deadline during three separate press events Monday.

Spicer deflected questions Monday about the deadline to the DOJ. “Let’s be clear, the Department of Justice was asked to send the information to Congress — the White House wasn’t asked to do that,” Spicer said.

A spokesperson for Obama has called the claims “simply false,” and said that “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.” Obama was reportedly “irked” and “exasperated” by his successor’s uncorroborated wiretapping accusation, sources close to the former president told CNN.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump has one of two choices, “either retract or provide the information that the American people deserve.”

“I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the President of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” McCain said. “All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence, and say, OK, what happened? Because they certainly should know whether the former president of the United States was wiretapping Trump Tower.”

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