British security official denies UK spy agency eavesdropped on Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump.
PHOTO: Reuters

WASHINGTON - A UK spy agency did not eavesdrop on Donald Trump during and after last year's US presidential election, a British security official said on Tuesday, denying an allegation by a US television analyst.

The official, who is familiar with British government policy and security operations, told Reuters that the charge made on Tuesday by Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, was "totally untrue and quite frankly absurd."

Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano.Photo: Reuters

Trump, who became president in January, tweeted earlier this month that his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, wiretapped him during the late stages of the 2016 campaign. The Republican president offered no evidence for the allegation, which an Obama spokesman said was "simply false."

All eyes on Trump as he makes maiden speech at Congress

  • US president Donald Trump hailed the emergence of a "new national pride" in his maiden speech to Congress, pushing for tough immigration enforcement as the key to delivering jobs and security at home.
  • During a turbulent first 40 days in office, the new US president has doubled down on his vow to put "America First" - but has yet to translate his populist vision into legislative reality.
  • But he came to Capitol Hill hailing a "new national pride" and daring lawmakers to rally behind his plans to dramatically slash government spending, industrial regulation and tax.
  • "A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning," he declared, after arriving to cheers and wild acclaim from members of the Republican-led House of Representatives and Senate.
  • Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and other guests, applaud another guest saluted by President Donald Trump during his speech to Congress.
  • Trump touted tougher immigration enforcement as the keystone of a drive to boost American employment and wages, and slash crime.
  • But he also vowed to introduce a new merit-based immigration system to regulate new arrivals in the United States and reduce the flow of unskilled workers.
  • Pressing his domestic agenda, Trump promised to provide "massive" tax relief for the American middle class and to repeal his predecessor's landmark Obamacare health reform, which expanded coverage to 20 million people.
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and Associate Justices, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan watch as as US President Donald Trump speaks
  • Marie Owens, the widow of a Navy SEAL killed in a mission in Yemen, is applauded during Trump's address
  • Jamiel Shaw, Sr., the father of the late Jamiel Scott Jr., who was shot by an alleged illegal immigrant, is applauded after being mentioned by Trump

Senior Obama administration officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have also denied any such wiretapping occurred.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.Photo: AFP

On Monday, the US Justice Department told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that it needed more time to respond to a demand for copies of any documents that might show Obama ordered eavesdropping on Trump.

On the "Fox & Friends" programme, Napolitano, a political commentator and former New Jersey judge, said that rather than ordering US agencies to spy on Trump, Obama obtained transcripts of Trump's conversations from Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the equivalent of the US National Security Agency, which monitors overseas electronic communications.

Trump sworn in as 45th US president

  • President Donald Trump assumed power Friday with a fiercely nationalistic vow to put "America first," declaring a new political era after being sworn in as the 45th US head of state.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people stood in the rain-splattered National Mall to see the 70-year-old Republican billionaire take the oath of office and deliver a stridently populist call-to-arms.
  • Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn arrive for the inauguration of President Trump.
  • Former US president Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • Former US President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.
  • Bush put up a struggle with his poncho.
  • American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a donor to the Trump campaign.
  • Senators Bernie Sanders and John McCain.
  • "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land," Trump said, promising an end to business-as-usual in Washington.

    "From this moment on, it's going to be only America First."

  • "Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, DC. And giving it back to you, the people."
  • While the US capital city no longer provides official crowd counts, the turnout was visibly smaller than for Barack Obama's two inaugurations, in 2009 and 2013, with sections of the Mall and bleachers along the parade route left empty.
  • And as the incoming leader rallied his supporters for the swearing-in, throngs of his opponents also converged on Washington.
  • Most of the protests - by an array of anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, LGBT, pro-immigration and marijuana legalization groups - were noisy but peaceful, though sporadic violence marred the day.
  • Between 400 and 500 masked, black-clad protesters carrying anarchist flags smashed windows, lit fires and scuffled with riot police in downtown Washington, blocks from the parade held in Trump's honour, with over 90 people arrested for vandalism.
  • Even the peaceful protesters were intent on spoiling Trump's party - letting out a deafening roar as the presidential limousine known as "The Beast" rolled by on the way to the White House.
  • "Not my president! Not my president!" they yelled, as the pro- Trump crowd in bleachers across the street chanted "USA! USA!".
  • Trump's inauguration caps the improbable rise to power of the Manhattan real estate magnate who has never before held elected office, served in government or in the armed forces.
  • His speech was far from the typical optimistic inaugural address that tries to bridge political divides and lift Americans' gaze up to the horizon.
  • It was a deliberate and striking contrast from the uplifting message of Obama, the outgoing president who was among the dignitaries in attendance.
  • Obama and his wife Michelle departed the Capitol by helicopter moments after the swearing-in ceremony, turning a page on eight years of Democratic leadership in the White House.
  • At a Congressional luncheon afterward, Trump led a standing ovation for his defeated election rival Hillary Clinton, saying he was "honoured" that she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, attended his inauguration.
  • When Trump descended the escalators of his glitzy New York tower in June 2015, his run for office was roundly dismissed and even mocked.
  • Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance during the Armed Forces ball at the National Building Museum.
  • Trump, the first lady Melania Trump, US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen cut a cake after dancing at the Armed Services ball.

"Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command - 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 the former president "used GCHQ."

GCHQ has a close relationship with the NSA, as well as with the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a consortium called "Five Eyes."The British official said that under British law, GCHQ "can only gather intelligence for national security purposes" and noted that the US election "clearly doesn't meet that criteria."

Obama and Trump meet in the White House

  • Barack Obama and Donald Trump on Thursday put past animosity aside during a 90-minute White House meeting designed to quell fears about the health of the world's pre-eminent democracy.
  • White House staffers stand on the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as they await the arrival of US President-elect Donald Trump for a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, November 10, 2016.
  • "Mr President, it was a great honour being with you," Trump said, calling Obama a "very good man." .
  • As protests against the Republican property mogul's shock election rumbled across US cities and world capitals contended with a suddenly uncertain world order, Obama and Trump vowed to carry out a smooth transition of power.
  • After a nasty campaign that culminated in the election of a 70-year-old billionaire who has never held public office and who gained power on a far-right platform, the message was: this is business as usual in a democracy.
  • "It is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face," Obama said.
  • Trump appeared more subdued than usual, and was unusually cautious and deferential in his remarks.
  • The outgoing Democratic president and his successor huddled one-on-one in the Oval Office, for what Obama characterized as an "excellent conversation" and then put on a remarkably civil joint public appearance.
  • After all, Trump championed the so-called "birther movement" challenging that Obama was actually born in the United States - a suggestion laden with deep racial overtones - only dropping the position recently.
  • "Here's a good rule. Don't answer questions when they just start yelling," Obama told Trump.
  • Trump - who previously called Obama the "most ignorant president in our history" - said he looked forward to receiving the president's counsel. Obama - who previously said Trump was a whiner and "uniquely unqualified" to be commander-in-chief - vowed his support.
  • The two men ended the improbable and historic White House encounter with a handshake and refused to take questions, appearing to find common cause in their opinion of the press.
  • He (Obama) told Trump that his administration would "do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds."

The official added that GCHQ "can only carry out intelligence operations where it is legal in both the US and UK to do so."

Under US law, presidents cannot direct wiretapping. Instead, the federal government can ask a court to authorise the action, but it must provide justification.

The British agency declined a request for comment.

Read also: 
Trump alleges wiretapping by Obama during campaign, cites no evidence

Former US intelligence chief rejects Trump wiretap accusation
White House asks Congress to probe Trump's accusation of Obama wiretap

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