Sean Spicer spars with White House press corps over alleged wiretapping Hunter Walker National Correspondent Spicer defends Trump’s wiretapping claims, despite having no evidence Spicer defends Trump’s wiretapping claims, despite having no evidence Yahoo News VideoScroll back up to restore default view.WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had a heated exchange with a pair of reporters at his daily briefing on Thursday. The tense back-and-forth began with questions about President Trump’s allegation that he was wiretapped by his predecessor, Barack Obama. It devolved into shouting, repeated interruptions and an accusation from Spicer that the media is attempting to “perpetuate a false narrative” about Trump’s relationship with Russia.The U.S. intelligence community has alleged that Russia interfered in favor of Trump during last year’s election. Congress is investigating Russia’s role in the campaign and this week, the FBI briefed the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and was specifically asked about Trump’s accusation. In a tweet sent earlier this month, Trump alleged that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” at the end of last year’s presidential election. The chairs of the Senate committee, Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina and Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, released a joint statement earlier on Thursday.Learn moreSean spicer wiretappingSean spicer press. again.Sean spicer meets press.White House press corpsSean spicer press. allowed“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 statement said.The first question in Spicer’s briefing on Thursday came from ABC News’ chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, who asked about the intelligence committee statement. Karl pointed out that, on Tuesday, Spicer said the president was “extremely confident” that the Department of Justice would bring evidence to Congress that would “vindicate” his blockbuster allegation of wiretapping.Karl said the intelligence committee’s conclusion about Trump’s claim “seems to be a pretty blanket statement” and asked Spicer for his reaction to it. Spicer initially responded to Karl’s question about the committee statement by criticizing the media.“It’s interesting to me that, you know, just as a point of interest, that when one entity says one thing that … claims one thing, you guys cover it ad nauseam,” he said.Spicer went on to claim that the press had remained silent about the fact that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had indicated that it was possible that members of Trump’s campaign were captured during surveillance of Russian officials. Spicer also suggested that the media had ignored a statement Nunes made last month, declaring that there was no evidence available of criminal contacts between Trump’s associates and Russia.“There was crickets from you guys,” Spicer said, later adding, “You don’t want to cover the stuff.”Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Nunes unequivocally stated, “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.” However, he did allow for the possibility that members of Trump’s team were indirectly surveilled. Nunes suggested that the real question was whether or not Trump’s comments about wiretapping should be taken “literally.”“Are you going to take the tweets literally? And if you are, then clearly the president was wrong. But if you’re not going to take the tweets literally, and if there is a concern that the president has about other people, other surveillance activities looking at him or his associates, either appropriately or inappropriately, we want to find that out,” Nunes said.At the same press conference, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, also said there was no proof of Trump’s allegation.“To date, I’ve seen no evidence that supports the claim that President Trump made, that his predecessor had wiretapped [him] and his associates at Trump Tower,” said Schiff.After Spicer accused the press of ignoring Nunes’ point, Karl cut in to stress that members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have said there was no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower. Spicer interrupted him.“No. No. Hold on!” Spicer said.Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds his daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on March 16, 2017. (Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstSpicer again pointed to Nunes’ comment that, even though there is no indication of a wiretap, there may have been other indirect surveillance that captured members of Trump’s team. The press secretary also noted an interview with Fox News that aired Wednesday in which Trump suggested at his use of the term “wiretap covers a lot of different things” and should not necessarily be taken literally“I think the president’s been very clear. When he talked about it last night, when he talked about ‘wiretapping,’” Spicer said, making air quotes with his hands, “he meant surveillance. And there have been incidents that occurred.”Spicer further argued that the press “choose not to cover” the possibility that other forms of surveillance had been conducted, other than a wiretap installed to monitor Trump Tower. Karl attempted to get a word in, but Spicer cut him off.“Where was your passion and where was your concern when they all said that there was no connection to Russia? Where was it then? Crickets from you guys,” said Spicer.When Karl tried to ask follow-up questions, Spicer interrupted him again.“Hold on! … I’m trying to answer your question, Jonathan, if you could calm down,” Spicer said.Spicer went on to cite a series of news stories that suggested that intelligence agencies were investigating Trump and his team during the final days of the Obama administration.The articles Spicer pointed to included a story from the news site Circa that claimed the FBI’s probe into Russia’s role in the election “briefly” involved an investigation into a computer server linked to Trump’s real estate company. The story said that unnamed intelligence officials were frustrated with leaks about the investigation that lacked proper “context” and blamed the situation on Obama’s decision to grant the National Security Agency wider leeway to share details about information gathered from surveillance. Spicer also read from a report from the conservative site Heat Street that claimed “two separate sources with links to the counterintelligence community” had confirmed that the FBI was granted a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” He suggested that all of this demonstrated that Obama’s administration was conducting some level of surveillance on Trump’s team.“Putting the published accounts and commonsense together, this leads to a lot,” Spicer said.Karl questioned whether this meant that the president still believes his accusation, even though the congressional committees report there is no such evidence.“Are you saying that the president still stands by his allegation that President Obama ordered wiretapping or surveillance of Trump Tower, despite the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee says they see no indication that it happened?” Karl asked.Spicer argued that Karl was “mischaracterizing” the committee’s position in light of the potential that further evidence could be presented and said that the president remains confident of his accusation.“He stands by it,” Spicer said of Trump.Karl pressed Spicer on whether the president would be “vindicated.”“I believe he will,” Spicer said.Spicer again pointed to Trump’s Fox News interview and to press reports indicating that members of Trump’s team were investigated and monitored.“The president said last night that … there will be additional information coming forward,” Spicer said. “There’s a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the … election.”Members of Trump’s team are concerned that there have been leaks of information from the probes into Russia’s role in the campaign. Those leaks included transcripts of calls between Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.The calls could have been recorded as part of routine surveillance of Russian officials and are not proof there was a wiretap that focused on Trump’s team.Spicer subsequently took a question from CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Acosta noted that one of the sources Spicer had cited was the Fox News host Sean Hannity, a frequent booster of Trump.“I get you’re going to cherry-pick,” Spicer said. “You also tend to overlook all of the other sources … because I know you want to cherry-pick it.”Acosta countered that CNN and other outlets have done “plenty of reporting” on the “connections between … associates of the president” and Russia, arguing that it has “all been looked at.”“It sounds like during the context of that investigation, there might have been some intercepted communications,” Acosta said, conceding that members of Trump’s team could have been surveilled in some way.“We have reported that, and others have reported that,” Acosta added.Spicer questioned why Acosta believed he was “such an expert on this.” When Acosta attempted to return to some of the questions raised by Karl, and to whether Trump continues to believe there was a wiretap of Trump Tower, Spicer returned to his claim that the president was using the term “wiretapping” more generally.“I think that’s cute, but at the end of the day, we’ve talked about this for three or four days,” Spicer said. “The president had the ‘wiretapping’ in quotes. He was referring to broad surveillance.”Acosta challenged Spicer and said that members of Trump’s team might indeed have been examined because there was an investigation into their contacts with Russia. Spicer fired back and suggested that Acosta was leaping to conclusions about a potential investigation, despite the fact that, as a reporter, he did not have access to classified information.“You’re coming to some serious conclusions for a guy that has zero intelligence,” Spicer said.This remark prompted laughs from the reporters in the briefing room.“Give me some credit,” Acosta quipped.“I’ll give you some,” Spicer responded.“I have a little intelligence maybe,” said Acosta.
Trump’s budget to slash foreign aid and green-energy funding Rick Newman Columnist
Republicans Join Democrats in Defending NATO
“Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has evolved to take on new dangers including terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and cyber attacks,” the resolution states.Despite concerns that the resolution could be viewed as a swipe against the president, nine Republicans signed on as cosponsors to the legislation, including Reps. Mike Coffman (Co.), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Tom Cole (Ok.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Ted Yoho (Fla.), Doug LaMalfa (Cal.) Leonard Lance (N.J.), John Moolenaar (Mich.), and Andy Harris (Md.).In describing her support for the resolution, Wagner cited her role as a former United States ambassador to Luxembourg and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “It is incumbent on the United States and our European allies to reinvigorate our global commitment to international order,” she told FP.The resolution also takes aim at Russia, a country whose president Trump has praised repeatedly and with which he has expressed a desire to have closer bonds.“Russia has continued to threaten the sovereignty of countries in Europe and exhibit threatening behavior toward our own military assets,” the resolution states. “NATO sends a clear collective message that the Alliance will not tolerate Russia’s provocation.”During the presidential campaign, Trump warned that that the United States might not come to the defense of NATO allies if they don’t shoulder a greater burden for their own security. His criticisms reflected longstanding concerns by military leaders that the vast majority of NATO countries do not meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defense. But his threat to abandon freeloading NATO members in the time of crisis rattled NATO members.More recently, Trump has softened his criticism of NATO and even claimed that members were beginning to make progress on paying their fair share.“Our partners must meet their financial obligations. And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that,” Trump said earlier this month during his first joint address to Congress. “In fact, I can tell you the money is pouring in. Very nice.”In fact, there hasn’t been any new money from NATO allies as a result of Trump’s criticisms, and there haven’t been any new commitments since Defense Secretary James Mattis made his case for increased military spending to allies in February.Democratic Rep. John Delaney (Md.) said the resolution has bipartisan support in part because new language was included in the resolution urging NATO allies to increase defense spending. “That is a change from the last resolution,” he said. “My Republican colleagues have been strong and forceful on that point.”“I think Gen. Mattis would read this resolution and he’d agree with it,” he added.
World ‘You have lost Turkey as a friend’ Erdogan tells Dutch PM Mark Rutte after election win Isabelle Gerretsen,International Business Times 9 hours ago Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched another tirade against the Netherlands a day after Mark Rutte fought off the challenge of his anti-immigration and anti-Islam rival Geert Wilders.While world leaders congratulated the Dutch Prime Minister on his landslide victory, Erdogan threatened to tear up the EU migrant deal and told Rutte that he had lost Turkey as a friend.Trending: ‘Columbine fanboy’ was heavily armed shooter in French school attack Despite warnings from the EU and NATO to tone down his inflammatory rhetoric, Erdogan has continued to engage in a „war of words” with the Netherlands. The diplomatic row between the two countries started when Turkish ministers were banned from addressing rallies there to drum up support for Erdogan ahead of a constitutional referendum that would give him sweeping new powers.Mark Rutte’s tough response to the Turkish campaign is considered an important factor behind his party’s electoral victory. It gave him the opportunity to show strong leadership and his refusal to bow down to foreign powers.Don’t miss: Africa’s largest snake has been caught devouring an entire hyena on camera The Turkish Prime Minister was less impressed with Rutte’s success than other heads of state. In a televised speech on 16 March he addressed the Dutch Prime Minister: „Hey Rutte! You may have emerged as the number one party in the election but you must know that you have lost Turkey as your friend,” he said.He threatened to retaliate by tearing up the EU Turkey deal which was agreed to curb the number of refugees moving to the continent. „You bar my minister from entering the Netherlands … and then you expect us to grant access to migrants? There can be no such thing,” he told the Dutch Prime Minister.Most popular: Will Philip Hammond be the first minister sacked by Theresa May?At a rally earlier in the day, the Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned of imminent „wars of religion” starting across Europe.”There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands. They all have the same mindset…That mindset is taking Europe to the cliff,” he said.Erdogan also criticised the European Court of Justice’s ruling that companies were allowed to ban women from wearing headscarves at work.”Shame on the EU. Down with your European principles, values and justice… They started a clash between the cross and the crescent, there is no other explanation,” he said.Turkey is a secular country and wearing headscarves and other religious symbols was banned for decades. Erdogan and his Islamist rooted AKP party fought to overturn the ban on grounds that it was discriminatory. In 2013 the ban was abolished, a parliamentary decision Erdogan hailed as „a step towards normalisation.”