WASHINGTON — During a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, President Donald Trump made clear that he is not backing away from his widely disputed claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
When asked by a German reporter about the claim, Trump quipped to Merkel “at least we have something in common, perhaps.”
The joke, which did not seem to play well with Merkel, was a reference to 2013 reports based on files stolen from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Obama authorized intercepting Merkel’s cellphone conversations.
On Thursday, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Community issued a joint statement concluding that they have seen no evidence supporting Trump’s claim.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said following the announcement that the committee has still not seen evidence from the Justice Department and that Trump stands by his initial claim.
During Friday’s news conference, Trump also brushed off concerns surrounding Spicer referring to an unsubstantiated reference in the media tying British intelligence to Trump’s wire tap claim.
“We said nothing, all we did was quote a certain, very talented legal mind,” Trump said.
Trump was referring to Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, who claimed earlier this week that Obama had British intelligence, GCHQ, monitor Trump in order to sidestep legal restrictions.
Spicer’s remark irked the British government and a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May called it “ridiculous.”
“You should be talking to Fox,” Trump added Friday.
The remarks on the wiretap claim largely overshadowed the first meeting between Trump and Merkel, one that inevitably hovers around trade between the two nations and common defense via the NATO military alliance.
Trump made Merkel a frequent target during the 2016 presidential campaign, wherein he accused her of destroying her country via the government’s immigration policies.
In turn, Merkel publicly criticized Trump’s first travel ban for those from seven predominantly Muslim countries as well as refugees.
Merkel referenced the drama in her opening statement on Friday, saying through a translator: “it’s always better to talk to one another than about one another.”
When Merkel was asked by a German reporter about the dangers posed by Trump’s “isolationist” policies, Trump stepped in to deny that he was an isolationist.
“I am a free trader but I am also a fair trader,” Trump said. “I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination.”
The president added that the description was “another example of, what you would say, fake news,” using an insult he usually reserves for American reporters.