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Trump wiretap claims: White House softens stance on unproven tweets

Trump Tower in New York. 6 March 2017

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EPA

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Mr Trump said his offices at Trump Tower in New York were bugged during the election

Unsubstantiated claims by US President Donald Trump that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama were not meant literally, the White House press secretary says.

Sean Spicer said Mr Trump had broadly meant “surveillance and other activities” when he made the allegation in a tweet earlier this month.

He also suggested the president was not accusing his predecessor specifically.

Mr Spicer was speaking ahead of a Monday deadline for the administration to provide evidence for the claim.

In his tweet Mr Trump said: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”

He added: “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president?”

Despite repeated requests, the White House has not given any evidence for the claim.

It has instead asked Congress to examine the allegations as part of an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s election.

But members of the House Intelligence Committee asked the Department of Justice to provide evidence of President Trump’s claims by Monday.

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AFP

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White House Press Secretary has faced tough questioning over the claims

“The president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities,” Mr Spicer told reporters.

“There’s a whole host of tactics that can be used to monitor somebody either through wiretap or other ways,” he added, without giving details.

Mr Spicer also suggested Mr Trump was referring to the actions of the Obama administration and not accusing the former president directly.

Earlier, Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said she did not have any evidence to back up the wiretapping claim but said there were “many ways to surveil each other now”.

“You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets – any number of ways… microwaves that turn into cameras. We know this is a fact of modern life,” she told New Jersey’s Bergen County Record.

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