Spicer spars with CNN over wiretapping claim
WASHINGTON – Sean Spicer was plainly fed up with the major media’s questioning of the president’s integrity during Thursday’s daily press briefing at the White House.
During an extensive and heated give-and-take on President Trump’s claim his campaign was surveilled by the Obama administration, the press secretary accused network reporters of “cherry picking” quotes, practicing a “double standard” in citing sources and continuing “to perpetuate a false narrative.”
“False narrative” would be media-speak for what the president has called “fake news.”
Time and again, reporters asked: Where is the evidence for the president’s claim, and would he apologize if he turned out to be wrong?
After telling ABC’s Jonathan Karl, “I am trying to answer your question, Jonathan, if you can calm down,” Spicer launched into what might have been the longest answer ever given at a White House press briefing, coming in just a few seconds short of eight minutes.
Spicer turned the tables on the media with an epic-length answer that underscored a fact WND has reported repeatedly: The evidence the media keeps asking him to provide has already been published – by that very same media.
Spicer proceeded to read lengthy passages from published reports detailing evidence of surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration, material WND has reported repeatedly and extensively, including the March 7 article titled “Irony alert: New York Times asks ‘Where’s evidence’ for own wiretap story.”
Spicer read verbatim from four stories by the New York Times, as well as stories from CIRCA, Fox News, Heat Street and National Review. He also mentioned reporting by the BBC, the Guardian and McClatchy.
Perhaps the most salient excerpts came from a Jan. 19 online story in the New York Times with the Jan. 20 print-version headline of: “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”
One sentence confirmed the Obama administration was investigating the Trump campaign:
“American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communication and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation of possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.”
In the next sentence, the Times itself appeared to confirm Trump’s allegation that President Obama saw information on the Trump campaign obtained by spying:
“One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications have been provided to the White House.”
The back-and-forth during the press briefing included exchanges during which Spicer grew increasingly exasperated as reporters asked variations of the same questions.
When Karl pointed out that House Intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he hadn’t he seen any evidence of spying yet, Spicer began to lose his patience.
He told the reporter: “When Devin Nunes came out and said, I think it’s very possible – yesterday – it was crickets from you guys. When Devin Nunes came out and said there was no connection that he saw to Russia – crickets. When (Sen.) Tom Cotton said the same. You don’t want to cover the stuff.”
When Karl pressed on, Spicer retorted, “It’s interesting how when evidence comes out and people who have been briefed on the Russia connection come out and say that there was nothing that they have seen that proves a connection, you choose not to cover that, you don’t stop the narrative, you continue to perpetuate a false narrative.”
Illustrating what he termed a double standard in the media’s coverage, Spicer noted: “There’s a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the  election. And I think it’s interesting, where was the question of the New York Times or these other outlets when that was going on? Where was the question?”
Karl concluded with a question: “So he’ll be vindicated? You think he’s going to be vindicated?
“I believe he will,” replied Spicer for the umpteenth time, over the course of the last few weeks.
CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to minimize the significance of Spicer’s eight-minute recitation by noting he had cited Fox News host Sean Hannity and Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, but the press secretary was having none of it.
He replied, “I also quoted – I get you’re going to cherry-pick – no, no, OK, you also tend to overlook all of the other sources that – because I know you want to cherry-pick it. But at the – no, no, but you do. But where was your concern about the New York Times reporting? You didn’t seem to have a concern with that.”
Spicer also took the CNN reporter to task for suggesting all the published evidence he cited was insignificant.
Acosta said, “These connections between the aides of the president – associates of the president to the Russians has all been looked at and it’s …”
“No, wait, how do you know all this?” wondered Spicer. “How do you seem to be such an expert on this?”
“I’m saying that this has been looked at, Sean. We’ve all looked at it,” said the CNN reporter.
“How do you know it’s been looked at?” shot back Spicer.
Acosta seemed to be saying all the published evidence the press secretary had recited was insignificant because the media had already reviewed it. Spicer’s point was that no one yet knew what investigators would make of it.
After some more back-and-forth, the CNN reporter demanded, “Why can’t we just end this farce and just have the president say he was wrong?”
After noting that he had already answered that question, Spicer continued: “It’s interesting how you jump to all of these conclusions about what they (investigators) have and what they don’t have, and you seem to know all the answers. But at the end of the day, there was clearly a ton of reporting …”
Acosta interrupted, “So a week from now, we’re going to be wrong, you’re going to be right?”
Spicer responded, in part, “There’s no question that there were surveillance techniques used throughout this, I think, by a variety of outlets, that have reported this activity concluded.”
He added, “[A]s Chairman Nunes said yesterday, when you take it literally and – wiretapping, the president has already been very clear that he didn’t mean specifically wiretapping. He had it in quotes. So I think to fall back on that is a false premise.”
Undeterred and sticking to literalism, another reporter asked, “If all this comes out and there’s no proof that President Obama had any role in any wiretapping, if there was no wiretapping, will President Trump then offer an apology to President Obama?”
An exasperated Spicer replied, “I was asked this like three times this week, and I think the answer is we’re not going to prejudge what the outcome of this is.”