White House will not repeat claims of UK wiretap: May spokesman

US President Donald Trump attends a meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2017
NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP/File)
UK spies refute 'ridiculous' Trump claims in rare denial

Britain has received assurances from the White House that it will not repeat claims that UK spies listened in on then president-elect Donald Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman reiterated GCHQ's denial of the claims as "utterly ridiculous", adding "We have made this clear to the administration and have received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated".

"Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then-president elect are nonsense," a GCHQ spokesperson said.

"They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored," the spokesperson said in a statement late Thursday.

GCHQ's press office told AFP on Friday that it was "not unusual" for the agency to make public comment but acknowledged that "perhaps the tone of it was unusual".

The agency does not normally comment on intelligence matters, though it has stepped up its public relations in recent months, including for recruitment drives and warnings on cyber-security.

Britain and the United States -- along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- are part of the "Five Eyes" intelligence sharing alliance forged from the embers of World War II.

Trump accused former president Barack Obama on March 4 of a "Nixon/Watergate"-like wiretapping plot that would almost certainly break US law.

President Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer repeated the allegations on Thursday, quoting from the Fox News report in which Napolitano spoke.

Britain's ambassador to Washington Kim Darroch spoke directly to Spicer, although May's spokesman refused to say whether the US administration had apologized.

"The fact is, within the Five Eyes pact, we cannot use each other's capabilities to circumvent our laws," May's spokesman said.

"It's a situation that simply wouldn't arise."

Britain and the United States -- along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- are part of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance forged from the embers of World War II.

"We have a close, special relationship with the White House and that allows us to raise concerns as and when they arise as was true in this case," he added.

Late on Thursday, a spokesman for GCHQ said: "Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then-president elect are nonsense."

The press office of GCHQ --, the Government Communications Headquarters -- told AFP on Friday that it was "not unusual" for the agency to make public comment but acknowledged that "perhaps the tone of it was unusual".

Trump had accused former president Barack Obama on March 4 of a "Nixon/Watergate"-like plot that would almost certainly break US law.

In the subsequent Fox report, Napolitano claimed that "three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command" to order the surveillance.

"He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI, and he didn't use the Department of Justice," Napolitano said, adding that Obama used the GCHQ.

Members of Congress from both parties who are investigating the claims have found no evidence to support them.

Tim Farron, leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, an opposition party, called Spicer's repetition of the claims made by Napolitano "shameful".

"Trump is compromising the vital UK-US security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment," he said, adding: "This harms our and US security."

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