“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,” the judge said. “He used GCHQ. What is that? It's the initials for the British intelligence-finding agency. 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's no American fingerprints on this. Putting the published accounts and common sense together, this leads to a lot.”
The claim was subsequently repeated during Thursday’s briefing by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
"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,” Spicer told reporters.
The Telegraph reported on Friday that both Spicer and General H.R. McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have now directly apologized over the claims.
“General McMaster contacted Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the prime minister's National Security adviser, to apologise for the comments. Mr Spicer conveyed his apology through Sir Kim Darroch, Britain's US ambassador,” the Telegraph reports.
Under UK law, GCHQ may only gather intelligence for national security purposes. A British official told Reuters that a US election “clearly doesn’t meet that criteria.”
The apology has come into question however, as Julie Davis, a reporter from the New York Times covering the White House, tweeted, “there was no apology to Brits,” and that the press secretary and McMaster “fielded complaints and defended Spicer's mention of wiretapping story.”
— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) March 17, 2017
The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a statement just before Thursday’s briefing declaring that there was no evidence to support Trump’s claim of Obama ordering Trump Tower to be wiretapped.