Trump's claim that a British intelligence agency wiretapped him came from a Russia-connected former CIA analyst

The claim that GCHQ was spying on him started with Russia, then spread to the world of alternative facts

Published March 20, 2017 12:43PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Last week the United States faced an international crisis with the United Kingdom for White House press secretary Sean Spicer's claim that British Government Communications Headquarters, known as the GCHQ, had been asked by President Barack Obama to spy on then-candidate Donald Trump.

Now it's come out that Spicer's source for the story may have ultimately been a former CIA analyst who now appears on RT, Russia's state-subsidized news network.

Spicer's source for his claim, former judge Andrew Napolitano, claimed that his source was Larry C. Johnson, according to the New York Times. In an interview with CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday, Johnson claimed that he had not "knowingly" been a source for Napolitano and insisted that Napolitano had inaccurately represented his claim by using the word "wiretap."

"I call it an 'information operation' that's been directed against President Trump," Johnson said.

Johnson's version of the story is that "when Donald Trump tweeted what he did on Saturday two weeks ago, the next day I was interviewed on Russia Today. Now I had known about the fact that the British, through GCHQ, were passing information through back channels. This was not being done at the direction of Barack Obama, let's be clear about that. But it was being done with the full knowledge of people like [former CIA director] John Brennan and [former Director of National Intelligence] Jim Clapper. And I had been told this by two different people I know within the intelligence community in January. They were very concerned about this because they saw it as an unfair meddling into politics. But it was a way to get around the issue of American intelligence agencies not collecting."

Before he was used as a source by Sean Spicer, Johnson was perhaps most famous for claiming in 2008 that Michelle Obama had been videotaped using an anti-Caucasian slur.


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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