By Jeremy Diamond, CNN
The White House on Monday walked back a key point of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated allegation that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 election.
Namely, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wasn’t referring to wiretapping when he tweeted about wiretapping.
“I think there’s no question that the Obama administration, that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election,” Spicer said. “The President used the word wiretaps in quotes to mean, broadly, surveillance and other activities.”
Wiretapping is a narrowly defined surveillance activity that involves tapping into “a telephone or telegram wire in order to get information,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Spicer also said that Trump was referring to the Obama administration broadly — and not accusing Obama of personal involvement — when he tweeted that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” and accused Obama of being a “bad” or “sick guy.”
Spicer’s comments came on the same say as the deadline for the Justice Department to provide evidence to the House Intelligence Committee to back up Trump’s claim. The White House has so far refused to provide any evidence, and numerous former officials have denied the existence of any warrant to wiretap Trump Tower.
A week earlier, Spicer said Trump’s tweet “speaks for itself” and declined to provide any further explanation.