White House Fires Back After Bipartisan Congressional Intel Leaders Counter Trump’s Wiretap Claims
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President Donald Trump stands by tweeted claims that President Barack Obama authorized surveillance of his campaign headquarters before the November election, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday, despite a Senate congressional intelligence committee statement that seemed to counter those accusations.
Spicer once again clarified during the press briefing on Thursday that by saying "wiretapping" the president actually meant surveillance. Trump himself has recently attempted to redefine the charges he leveled against his predecessor, telling FOX's Tucker Carlson on Wednesday that "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."
Congress Leaders Say No Evidence of Wiretaps, as White House Doubles Down 3:07
Trump during the interview maintained that "some very interesting items" would be "coming to the forefront over the next two weeks" but did not elaborate what those items might be.
The White House maintains the president will ultimately be vindicated as investigations continue.
Spicer, in the press briefing on Thursday, which was delayed in starting by nearly an hour, also blamed the media for cherry-picking reports to discredit the president's claims. He aggressively pushed back on journalists' questions about the apparent disconnect and read from a long list of news articles — reporting he said was further verification of the president's claims and "merit looking into."
"He stands by (his tweet) but again you're mischaracterizing what happened today," Spicer said of the Senate intelligence committee statement.
Spicer's comments come after a joint statement earlier in the day from Senate intelligence committee leaders, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, in which the lawmakers said they have not seen evidence President Barack Obama "wiretapped" Trump Tower before the November presidential election.
"Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," the lawmakers said in the statement.
Their counterparts in the House made similar comments just the day before.
WH Stands By Wiretap Claims, Insists on Waiting for DOJ Response 2:02
The bipartisan statements run counter to the unsubstantiated claims by Trump, who tweeted about the alleged wiretapping almost two weeks ago. The comments from the Senate intelligence committee chairmen also seems to counter the president's attempt to expand the terms of his wiretapping charges to include other methods of surveillance.
Spicer, in defending the president's claims, leaned heavily on comments from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes who said Wednesday it was "very possible" that Trump could have been swept up in intelligence collections.
The White House also defended the government's position after a federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order on Trump's revised executive order on entry into the U.S. — a decision that came mere hours before it was slated to take effect. On Thursday morning, a Maryland judge issued a temporary injunction nationwide against Trump's order.
Spicer, during Thursday's press briefing, promised the White House would "explore all available options" in appealing the courts' decisions. "The danger is real and the law is clear," he said.
President Trump was undeterred in the wake of the court stays on his second travel ban. Immediately after the courts' decisions, Trump swore to "fight this terrible ruling" — even if that meant going to the Supreme Court.
"I was elected to change our broken and dangerous system and thinking in government that has weakened and endangered our country and left our people defenseless," Trump told the Nashville crowd gathered at his campaign event on Wednesday.
Before the Thursday's press briefing got fully underway, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended cuts to community programs, like Meals on Wheels, which provides meals to homebound, often elderly, individuals.
"We can't spend money on programs just because they sound good and great," Mulvaney said. "Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again that's a state decision to fund that particular portion to it. To take the federal money and give it to the states and say look we want to give you money for programs that don't work. I can't defend that anymore."
Mulvaney had previously called the budget "hard power". When asked if it wasn't also "hard-hearted" he said a responsibility to tax payers outweighs the focus on recipients of programs funded by federal dollars.
"It's one of the most compassionate things we can do," he said.