The White House today backed off allegations by Fox News and repeated by its spokesman that Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency helped Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump.
In its first comments since GCHQ branded the Fox News allegations repeated by spokesman Sean Spicer as "utterly ridiculous," the White House said in a statement that the aide was not endorsing the original story.
The statement said British Ambassador Kim Darroch and National Security Advisor Mark Lyall Grant had communicated their concerns over the remarks, in which Spicer defended Trump's repeated accusations that Obama had wiretapped his Trump Tower residence and office.
But after GCHQ, which maintains a very close relationship with US intelligence agencies, gave an uncommonly vehement denial today, the White House issued a clarification to the UK government.
"Mr Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story," the White House explained in a statement.
Britain and the United States -- along with Australia, Canada and New Zealand -- are part of the "Five Eyes" intelligence sharing alliance forged from the embers of World War II.
But since becoming president, Trump has repeatedly questioned the loyalty and competence of US intelligence bodies, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency.
Two weeks ago Trump set off a firestorm when he tweeted the accusation against his predecessor.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" the first tweet read.
"Is it legal for a sitting President to be 'wire tapping' a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!"
Since then Trump, who has access to top secret intelligence and law enforcement investigations, has not offered any support for his claim, and has increasingly been pressed to back down from it.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)