Donald Trump gives rambling and incoherent explanation for claim Obama wiretapped him

President refuses to back down on claim despite House Intelligence Committee revealing there is no evidence to support it

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 16 March 2017 11:19 GMT
Trump: 'Wiretapping' covers a whole range of things

Donald Trump has given a rambling explanation for his claim Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his home, suggesting the allegation first surfaced in The New York Times.

The President tweeted earlier this month that he had “just found out” that Mr Obama had secretly ordered the surveillance on his home in Manhattan during the latter stages of the presidential campaign.

It initially appeared to have based on an unfounded allegation by Breitbart News – a right-wing news website previously run by Mr Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon.

But in an interview on Wednesday with Fox News, he suggested he first thought the former president was carrying out surveillance on Trump Tower after reading an article on the campaign in The New York Times about wiretapping, adding that Fox News anchor Bret Baier had “mentioned it” in a report.

He said: “I’ve been reading about things. I read in, I think it was January 20 a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article I think they used that exact term. I read other things.

“I watched your friend, Bret Baier, the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping. I said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about. I’ve been seeing a lot of things”.

He did not elaborate on his claims, which Mr Obama’s team have dismissed as “false”, nor provide any evidence to back them up.

When asked why he did not report his suspicions to the intelligence services before making them public he said he did not want “to do anything that’s going to violate any strength of an agency”.

He said they had “enough problems” and that the CIA itself had been hacked during the Obama administration and “had a lot of things” taken.

Mr Trump defended his decision to tweet his suspicions without proof because “The New York Times wrote about it”.

“Not that I respect The New York Times. I call it the failing New York Times. But they did write on January 20 using the word wiretap," he explained.

He claimed he had subsequently gathered “a lot” of evidence and “some very interesting items are coming to the forefront over the next two weeks."

Mr Trump’s confidence is at odds with the conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee that it had seen no evidence for it and did not believe it happened.

Devin Nunes, the Republican Chairman of the congressional committee, said “As I told you last week, in regard to the president talking about tapping Trump Tower. That evidence still remains the same. We don’t have any evidence that took place.

“And I don’t believe, having spoken to people just in the last week, I don’t believe there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.”

Several members of Mr Trump’s Cabinet and administration have distanced themselves from his claims, with his spokesman Sean Spicer suggesting he had meant surveillance in general rather than wiretapping specifically.

During the interview, Mr Trump himself stressed: “Don’t forget, when I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes.

“That really covers, because wiretapping is pretty old fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things. Nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing.”

He defended his use of Twitter and deflected a question about whether members of his administration asked him not to tweet by saying he had to use social media because he gets “such a fake press, such a dishonest press”.

The President then went on a tangent about his former reality show The Apprentice as he castigated the network which broadcasts it, NBC, for criticising him.

He said: “I think Fox has been fair to me, but if you look at CNN and if you look at these other networks, NBC - I made a fortune for NBC with The Apprentice.

“I had a top show where they were doing horribly, and I had one of the most successful reality shows of all time.

“I was very good to NBC and I – they are despicable. They’re despicable in their coverage”.

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