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Trump Administration Walks Back Wiretap Claims as DOJ Misses Deadline

HeadlineMar 14, 2017

In Washington, D.C., the Justice Department failed to meet a Monday deadline to hand over evidence in support of Donald Trump’s claims that President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower last year, asking leaders of the House Intelligence Committee for more time to comply. The delay came as senior Trump administration officials backpedaled from the claims. At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump didn’t literally mean wiretapping when he tweeted about “wire tapping.”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “The president used the word 'wiretapped' in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities during that. And that is again something—it is interesting how many news outlets reported that this activity was taking place during the 2016 election cycle and now are wondering where the proof is. It is many of the same outlets in this room that talked about the activities that were going on back then.”

Spicer’s claim directly contradicts a March 4 tweet by the president in which the wiretap claim is made without quotation marks. The tweet read, “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!” Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway drew ridicule over her comments on surveillance in an interview Sunday with the Bergen Record as she attempted to walk back Trump’s wiretapping claims.

Kellyanne Conway: “There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, through their—certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways, and microwaves that turn into cameras, etc.”

Conway’s claim became the butt of jokes on late-night television and prompted Wired magazine to publish a piece entitled “No, Microwave Ovens Cannot Spy on You—for Lots of Reasons.”

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