So here’s how it began: A discredited TV judge appears on the Trump propaganda network and attempts to bolster President Trump’s claims of having been wiretapped by President Obama, by weaving a fantastical account of a foreign government complying with a request to place surveillance on Trump during the 2016 election. In that way, U.S. fingerprints would be left off the evidence, should their nefarious plot be uncovered.
It’s the stuff of intrigue. It’s international, covert, top spy, with .007-styled plot twists.
It’s also a steaming pile of horse hockey.
Just as President Trump gets his information from InfoWars, Breitbart, and the National Enquirer, his administration seems to follow suit, so when Judge Andrew Napolitano made his fantastical charge against GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, they fell in line.
Specifically, at a Thursday press briefing, Sean Spicer said:
“Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, ‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command (to spy on Trump). He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA … he used GCHQ,'” Spicer told journalists.
When making the original allegations, Napolitano implied the decision to use GCHQ had been made to keep “American fingerprints” off the spying.
Did anybody ask how Napolitano would know? Where did he get his information, that he was so ready to throw the British government, our allies, under the bus?
This was a ham-handed attempt to save Trump’s reputation, at the cost of truth, and at the cost of vital international relationships.
Intelligence is shared between the two governments. In fact, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. intelligence communities work together in what is called the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing agreement.
That doesn’t mean one would commit some underhanded spy operation like that that Napolitano suggested.
GCHQ director Robert Hannigan, in a statement on the agency’s website last year, described GCHQ as “fully accountable” and said the UK intelligence agencies “are subject to one of the most stringent legal and oversight regimes in the world.”
And they apparently take it seriously enough that when Sean Spicer promoted a conspiracy theory that besmirched their ethical character on Thursday, they were compelled to speak out.
A GCHQ spokesperson said Napolitano’s claims were “utterly ridiculous.”
“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense. They … should be ignored,” the spokesperson said.
Unfortunately, it’s a rumor that was put out on social media immediately after Napolitano was allowed to promote it on a national platform and it caught fire. Just like #PizzaGate, if the hoax serves the anger of the Trump cult, nothing will keep them from charging forward with it.
Today, however, a day removed from U.S. intel saying they have no evidence of wiretapping of any kind, the administration is at least attempting to apologize.
A UK publication, The Telegraph, is reporting on the apology from Trump’s administration:
Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. “The apology came direct from them,” a source said.
General McMaster contacted Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Prime Minister’s National Security adviser, to apologise for the comments. Mr Spicer conveyed his apology through Sir Kim Darroch, Britain’s US ambassador.
Even Trump attempted to walk back his initial claims on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s show several nights ago, when he said by “wiretapping,” he meant a broad range of surveillance techniques and that he, himself, wasn’t necessarily the primary target.
Anybody who read those tweets from March 4 knows better.
We’re less than 100 days in, folks.