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WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump defiantly refused to back down Friday from his explosive claim that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones, and sidestepped any blame for the White House decision to highlight an unverified report that Britain helped carry out the alleged surveillance.
In brushing off the diplomatic row with perhaps America’s closest ally, Trump also revived another: the Obama administration’s monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump quipped during a joint news conference with Merkel.
Merkel, who was making her first visit to the White House since Trump took office, looked surprised by the president’s comment, which he appeared primed to deliver.
The Obama administration’s spying infuriated Germany at the time and risked damaging the US relationship with one of its most important European partners.
Trump’s unproven recent allegations against his predecessor have left him increasingly isolated, with fellow Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers saying they’ve seen nothing from intelligence agencies to support his claim.
But Trump, who rarely admits he’s wrong, has been unmoved, leaving his advisers in the untenable position of defending the president without any credible evidence.
On Thursday, spokesman Sean Spicer turned to a Fox News analyst’s contention that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Friday that the network could not independently verify the reports from Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and commentator who has met with Trump.
The GCHQ vigorously denied the charges in a rare public statement, saying the report was “utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”