The US government has formally apologised to Britain after Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, accused British intelligence agency GCHQ of spying on Donald Trump.
During a White House press conference, Trump’s press secretary read out a report based on a Fox News programme.
“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ. What is that? It’s the initials for the British intelligence finding agency.
“So, simply by having two people saying to them president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump’s conversations, involving president-elect Trump, he’s able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this,” said Spicer.
The press secretary implied that GCHQ had helped President Obama wiretap Trump tower during Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidential transition.
This sparked an angry response from GCHQ, which released a statement to the press, a historically unusual action for them to take.
Their statement read: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
GCHQ also said that the claims were “complete and utter nonsense.”
A spokesman for Theresa May also commented on the accusations, saying it had been made clear to US officials that the GCHQ claims were “ridiculous and should have been ignored”.
The White House has U-turned on the claims by apologising to the British Government. A US government official said that National security advisor H.R. McMaster spoke with his British counterpart on Thursday and described Mr Spicer’s comment as “unintentional”.
Sean Spicer assured Downing Street he will not repeat the allegations.