In his press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer directly contradicted President Donald Trump’s comments earlier in the day, denying the literal meaning of the president’s words.
The matter concerned a bizarre televised interview Trump gave earlier on Monday to CBS’ John Dickerson from the Oval Office.
“The president said, ‘I don’t stand by anything.’ How is the American public supposed to digest that, supposed to trust what the president says when he himself says, of his own comments, ‘I don’t stand by anything’?” a pool reporter asked Spicer.
“I think the point is, he clearly stands by that,” Spicer said. “That’s something that’s made very clear if you look at the entire back and forth exchange.”
In fact, the exchange is a few minutes of confused verbal sparring in which Trump word-for-word says “I don’t stand by anything.” It began when Dickerson asked about Trump’s relationship with President Obama, which Trump took as an opportunity to bring up — albeit in the form of veiled insinuations — his unproven allegation that Obama wiretapped him.
“Do you stand by that claim about him?” Dickerson asked.
“I don’t stand by anything,” Trump replied. “I just — you can take it the way you want. I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it,” Trump continued.
He refused to clarify what he meant by “you can take it the way you want,” and repeated it several times before abruptly ending the interview.
But later in the day, when the matter came up in the press conference, Spicer insisted that the exchange went very differently.
“You don’t have to ask me,” he responded to one of Dickerson’s attempts to clarify his muddy assertions. “Because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.”
Trump made the explosive allegation on Twitter on March 4th, claiming that Obama wiretapped him, and since then the White House has scrambled to come up with a justification for the tweets. In the months since, they’ve cited media reports, classified intelligence, and even alleged that it was carried out by foreign spy agencies — a false claim for which they had to apologize to Great Britain.
Yet while Trump continues to insist that their case has been validated, the White House has produced no credible evidence to back up the president’s unproven allegations.
The FBI, NSA, and DOJ have all said they know of no evidence backing up the claim.