Spicer Shuts Down Press Briefing Following Questions About His International Incident

Spicer Shuts Down Press Briefing Following Questions About His International Incident

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

White House press secretary Sean Spicer shut down today’s press briefing after he was asked about the international incident he caused last week by reading a Fox News transcript that accused a British intelligence service of spying on President Donald Trump last year on behalf of then-President Barack Obama.

Last week, the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees publicly acknowledged that they have seen no evidence to support Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential election. In an effort to defuse the situation during the March 16 press briefing, Spicer read aloud from a series of news articles that he falsely claimed supported Trump’s statement. This included Fox senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano’s March 13 statement on Fox & Friends that, according to “three intelligence sources,” Obama relied on “GCHQ,” the “British spying agency,” to obtain transcripts of “conversations involving President-elect Trump” with “no American fingerprints on this.”

The comments generated a “diplomatic row,” which Spicer reportedly tried to contain by contacting Britain's U.S. ambassador.

Roughly 45 minutes into today’s briefing, National Journal’s George Condon raised the issue, asking Spicer if reporters could assume that when he reads news articles from the White House podium, he is “vouching for the accuracy of those articles.” This was a clear reference to Spicer’s Thursday recitation of Napolitano’s claim. Spicer replied that this was a “silly assertation (sic)” and that “reading a story ... is not vouching for it.”

Condon followed up, asking Spicer to discuss his conversation with the British following those comments. Spicer replied, “There was merely an explanation of what we did and why we did it, which is what I just said to you. And that was it. Simply that.” And then Spicer ended the briefing before any other reporters could ask the press secretary more questions about the incident.

Since Spicer’s March 16 briefing:

  • The British intelligence service has denied the charge.

  • The Trump administration was forced to discuss the incidents with the British government.

  • When a reporter asked Trump about the incident during a press conference with a foreign leader, the president claimed that “all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.”

  • Fox News admitted that it could not substantiate Napolitano’s claim.

  • Napolitano acknowledged that one of his sources was a well-known conspiracy theorist.

  • That conspiracy theorist said that Napolitano had botched the story.

  • A British newspaper owned by Fox chief executive Rupert Murdoch reported that the story may have been the result of a Russian intelligence operation.

  • The deputy director of the National Security Agency told BBC News that the charge was “arrant nonsense.”

Questions that remain regarding the incident include:

  • Who brought the Napolitano segment to Spicer’s attention? Was it Trump, who regularly watches Fox & Friends and trusts its reporting?

  • Did Spicer make any effort to corroborate Napolitano’s comments before repeating them to the White House press corps?

  • Does the White House consider Napolitano a credible source for information?

  • Was Spicer aware that Napolitano has said that it is "hard for me to believe that" World Trade Center Building 7 "came down by itself," and that "20 years from now, people will look at 9/11 the way we look at the assassination of JFK today. It couldn't possibly have been done the way the government told us"?

  • Why doesn’t Spicer believe he owes the British an apology?

  • Does the U.S. government agree with reports that Napolitano’s story may have been the result of a Russian intelligence operation?

Reporters should follow up on the story tomorrow, rather than allowing Spicer to turn the page.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Network/Outlet
Fox News
Person
Andrew Napolitano, Sean Spicer, Donald Trump
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends
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