White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that President Donald Trump means what he says. Except when he doesn’t.
This includes when Trump uses quotes around his words, Spicer told reporters.
He was referring to a series of tweets that Trump wrote earlier this month, in which he accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping the phones at Trump’s campaign headquarters last fall. The president hasn’t provided any evidence to support his claims.
On Monday, Spicer insisted that when Trump used the term “wiretap,” he meant any sort of surveillance. “There’s a whole host of things that fall into the category [of wire-tapping],” he said, and “a wide range of ways in which somebody can be monitored or followed up on.”
This, however, is incorrect. Wiretapping is a specific term used to refer to a third party intercepting telephone or internet conversations and or monitoring them.
“President Obama was tapping my phones,” Trump wrote in the wee hours of March 4. “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower,” he also wrote. One day after he posted the tweets, Trump publicly asked Congress to investigate his unfounded accusation.
Spicer also sought to soften the intensely personal nature of Trump’s tweets about Obama. “He doesn’t think President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally,” Spicer said, despite the fact that Trump referred specifically to Obama multiple times in the tweets.
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump wrote.
Spicer’s comments Monday coincided with a deadline set by congressional committees for the Justice Department to turn over any evidence that Trump was surveilled by the Obama administration. The White House has yet to produce any evidence that Trump’s phones were tapped.
The New York Times reported last fall that the FBI had investigated potential collusion between Russian officials and some of Trump’s associates. But they didn’t find evidence of coordinated activity, and they determined that the likely intent of Russian meddling in the U.S. election was to disrupt the democratic process, rather than specifically to elect Trump.