When Donald Trump claimed on Friday that British intelligence agencies helped President Barack Obama "wiretap" Trump Tower, he was apparently relying on an allegation that originated with a longtime conspiracy theorist who made the charge on a Russian state-run propaganda outlet, according to multiple media reports this weekend.
While Trump has offered no evidence that Obama ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 United States presidential campaign — an allegation he put forth via his Twitter account on March 4 — he compounded that claim with his allegation that Obama was aided by the official intelligence services of America's closest ally, Great Britain.
Where did he get that supposed information?
At a press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, Trump refused to apologize for the seemingly baseless accusation against Great Britain, but said that in making the charge he was simply quoting "a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it."
"You shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox," Trump said — referring to Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano, who prefers to be referred to as "The Judge."
Napolitano did indeed make the apparently baseless connection between British intelligence agencies and the alleged Obama wiretapping program — for which there is also no factual support — on a Fox broadcast that aired March 14.
"He used GCHQ. What the heck is GCHQ? That's the initials for the British spying agency. They have 24/7 access to the NSA database," Napolitano said on the Fox and Friends broadcast. "So by simply having two people go to them saying President Obama needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump, conversations involving President-elect Trump, he is able to get it. And there is no American fingerprints on this."
GHCQ stands for Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency in charge of digital and electronic intelligence gathering, or "Signal Intelligence."
But according to a report in The New York Times on Friday, Napolitano's own source was Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA officer who has become better known in recent years as a conspiracy theorist and hoaxer — and the man behind the false claim during the 2008 presidential election that Michelle Obama could be seen on a videotape in an angry rant against "whitey."
But the "Whitey Tape" never surfaced and no evidence that it ever existed at all has emerged in the decade since Johnson started the hoax.
Johnson has also been linked to the "9/11 Truther" movement, which claims that the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center were a "false flag operation" carried out not by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, but by the U.S. government itself.
Johnson was given airtime to make the charge connecting British intelligence to the purported Obama wiretapping of Trump on the TV cable network RT, the English-language arm of Russian state-run television and a key element in Vladimir Putin's international propaganda efforts, according to a report in the Columbia Journalism Review.
Watch the RT interview with Johnson — which was then echoed on Fox News and finally, by Donald Trump — in the video below.
The British GHCQ has vehemently denied the allegations from Johnson, Napolitano and Trump, issuing a rare public statement in which it condemned the allegation as "utterly ridiculous nonsense," while one former top British intelligence official waved off the charge as "stupid" and "desperate."
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