Trump’s Wiretapping Controversies and Foreign Diplomacy

By Jaedeok Hong ‘19

Much interest on Trump and his allegations has been sparked since the daily press briefing on Wednesday. The White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated claims that former President Barack Obama had used British intelligence to surveil President Trump during the 2016 election.

As evidence, Spicer quoted a number of different media sources, including Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News, who said, “three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ… So simply by having two people saying to them the president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump’s conversations, involving President-elect Trump, he’s able to get it and there are no American fingerprints on this. Putting the published accounts and common sense together, this leads to a lot.”

The GCHQ that is mentioned refers to Government Communications Headquarters, the main U.K.’s intelligence agency. The U.K. is one of the “Five Eyes”, a group of five English-speaking countries, including the United States, which engage in close and intensive collaboration and international intelligence sharing.

Britain’s response to the comment was furious; a spokesperson for Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said that “we’ve received assurances from the White House that these allegations would not be repeated” and GCHQ itself called the allegations “nonsense”. Even Congress is not supportive of Trump and Spicer; the bipartisan congressional leaders acknowledged that there is still no evidence of spying.

The White House and Trump are defending the issue, however, and in a White House news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Trump made a possibly offensive joke to Merkel saying “as far as wiretapping by, I guess, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps”, referring to the fact that Obama’s administration wiretapped Merkel’s phone as a National Security Agency program until it was exposed in 2015. Whether Trump’s allegation is true or not, its controversial nature is undeniable. Trump does not seem to want to back down, especially when his recent tweets referred to Watergate and McCarthyism.

The effect of Trump’s accusation on his foreign policy and relationships with two of the strongest U.S. allies, however, is clear and detrimental, as his accusation of GCHQ’s involvement and the possibly offensive comment toward the German Chancellor could damage long-term relationships and make other allies uneasy.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/16/sean-spicer-just-suggested-that-obama-used-british-intelligence-to-spy-on-trump-not-so-much/?tid=pm_politics_pop&utm_term=.f51e9427bde8

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/17/the-cynical-game-sean-spicer-is-playing-on-wiretapping-and-how-trump-may-try-to-claim-victory/?tid=hybrid_collaborative_1_na&utm_term=.dec4bea81f7b

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/17/donald-trumps-conspiracy-theory-diplomacy/?utm_term=.0e262bf4187b

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/324594-the-memo-trumps-wiretapping-controversy-goes-global

 

Filed in: Featured content, Politics

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