President Trump on Friday once again suggested former President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the 2016 election, joking during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that they have “something in common.”
The president briefly touched on the wiretapping comment controversy when asked by a reporter about his allegations from earlier this month.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump quipped.
Merkel cracked a smile as reporters in the room laughed.
Trump’s comment was a reference to 2013 reports that the U.S. National Security Agency had listened in on Merkel’s phone calls. An inquiry was launched into the allegations after former NSA worker Edward Snowden revealed details of the secret U.S. eavesdropping programs.
Merkel declared at the time that “spying among friends” was unacceptable. The incident blemished an otherwise strong diplomatic relationship between Obama and Merkel.
Trump continues to face pressure to provide evidence for his widely disputed claims that Trump Tower was the target of an Obama administration wiretap during the presidential campaign.
On the sidelines of the press conference, Trump’s Justice Department said it had “complied” with a request from several congressional committees for information relating to surveillance during the 2016 election. A high-profile hearing is set for Monday that could turn up answers on the matter, and confirm or refute certain allegations.
At the same press conference Friday, Trump also was asked about claims originally made by a Fox News analyst regarding British intelligence services.
“We said nothing,” Trump said. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for [the claim].”
Trump was referring to a report by Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News’ senior judicial analyst, charging that British intelligence services were involved in the alleged spying of then-candidate Trump.
The allegation was cited by spokesman Sean Spicer at Thursday’s White House briefing. British officials have vigorously denied the claims, and Fox News cannot confirm the allegations.
Trump and Merkel held a press conference after meeting earlier in the Oval Office, where Trump apparently pressed Merkel on Germany’s NATO dues. Later, Trump discussed the need for NATO allies to pay “their fair share” for defense.
“Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States,” Trump said. “These nations must pay what they owe.”
He then thanked Merkel, who was standing beside him, for Germany’s apparent commitment to increase defense spending and work toward contributing 2 percent of GDP to NATO.
The joint press conference was amicable, despite Trump’s blunt criticism of the German leader during his presidential campaign.
In a nod to that history and other ongoing disagreements, Merkel said it is “much better to talk to one another than about one another.”