Sean Spicer: Trump clearly said 'wiretapping' in quotation marks

Spicer claimed President Trump "doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally"

Sean Spicer: Trump clearly said 'wiretapping' in quotation marks

White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. Picture by: Andrew Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

White House press spokesman Sean Spicer has attempted to clarify what Donald Trump meant when he claimed Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his skyscraper.

On March 4th, President Trump tweeted: 

In a series of follow-up tweets, he dropped the quotation marks as he alleged: "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!" 

No evidence was offered to back up the claims, which followed a series of reports from US conservative media about alleged efforts to undermine the Trump administration. 

The allegation was swiftly denied by a spokesperson for the former president.

In yesterday's press briefing, Sean Spicer suggested: "I think if you look at the President’s tweet, he said very clearly 'wiretapping' in quotes. There’s been substantial discussion in several reports that Bret Baier from Fox on March 3rd talked about evidence of wiretapping.

"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 wiretapping, that that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options."

When asked about his own discussions with President Trump over the tweets, Mr Spicer added: "He said they were in quotes, I was referring to surveillance overall."

Mr Spicer also said the US President "doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally".

"But I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election," he argued.

Investigation

Mr Spicer's remarks came as the US Department of Justice asked for more time to look into President Trump's allegations to see if there was any evidence to support them.

After a request from the White House, a congressional committee said earlier this month that it would "make inquiries into whether the government was conducting surveillance activities on any political party's campaign officials or surrogates".

Democrats and a number of Republican politicians have urged the Trump administration to provide evidence to support the allegations.

According to the Justice Department - who had been given a deadline of yesterday to provide supporting evidence - said it now needs more time to "review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist". 

They have been given until 20th of March - the day the House intelligence committee is due to start public hearings into alleged Russian interference in the US election - to provide the information.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Republican Congressman and committee chairman Devin Nunes, warned: "If the committee does not receive a response by then, the committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered".