After White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer parroted an unverified claim implicating Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in President Donald Trump's yet unfounded wiretap allegations, the White House reportedly reached out to Downing Street in an effort to smooth over tensions with Britain.
Spicer's claims drew a rare public comment from GCHQ, which quickly acted to refute the allegation, writing:
“Recent allegations made by media commentator judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed communications between her government and the White House in the wake of the incident, saying, “I don’t want to get into private conversations but we’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored.”
She also confirmed that the White House will not address the unfounded allegations again, saying “We’ve received assurances these allegations won’t be repeated."
The Telegraph reported that the White House had made a “formal apology to Britain.”
Additionally, British tabloids The Sun and The Express both characterized the White House's communication with Downing Street as “a groveling apology.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano made the original claim in an interview on Fox News, saying that three intelligence sources had confirmed for him that former President Barack Obama utilized Britain's GCHQ to surveil President Trump so as to ensure that there would be “no American fingerprints on this."
Spicer's decision to validate Napolitano's claim by repeating it in his official capacity as White House press secretary was widely mocked. Former British Labour Leader Ed Miliband joked that the statement could have implications on President Trump's official visit to the United Kingdom:
Along with New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are members of the “Five Eyes,” a group of nations who share intelligence capabilities and information. Members of the pact are forbidden from utilizing the intelligence capabilities of another member in order to spy on their own citizens, a point that the Prime Minister's spokesperson reiterated.
When asked whether Sean Spicer had been explicitly instructed not to give further credence to the story by repeating it, Theresa May's spokesperson responded with a clear and direct one-word answer: “Indeed.”
UPDATE [3/17/17, 11:49 a.m. EST]:
According to BuzzFeed News, the White House has refuted claims that it apologized for the incident.