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White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked point-blank by a reporter during Wednesday’s press conference about whether President Donald Trump has a credibility problem.
The question centered on what Trump meant by his Tuesday tweet that said: “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!”
Trump’s tweet came after a Fox News segment discussing the 122 ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoners. But almost all of them had been released during President George W. Bush’s administration. Spicer attempted to clarify the tweet during Tuesday’s briefing.
“Will he retract or even apologize for that, given he also called it a terrible decision by the Obama administration?” the reporter asked Spicer. “And given that this was incorrect, [and] that there’s been no proof that either of his tweets about widespread voter fraud or the wiretapping, does the president have a credibility problem?”
Spicer gave a curious explanation for the tweet, saying Trump was calling out both the total number of prisoners released and the Obama administration’s priority of cutting down on the number of prisoners at Gitmo.
“He meant that it was the totality of the people,” Spicer said.
Earlier, Spicer was asked whether Trump was the target of a counterintelligence investigation. The question was sparked by Trump’s Saturday tweets that claimed, without evidence, that President Barack Obama had ordered phones in Trump Tower to be wiretapped late in the campaign season.
“I think that’s what we need to find out,” Spicer said, adding that the White House asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to look into the matter. On Wednesday, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a Democrat, requested all warrant applications and court orders related to potential wiretapping of Trump, Trump Tower, and his campaign.
Spicer also took the opportunity to slam the Russia-related cloud hanging over the administration as a “fake narrative” that gets repeated without evidence showing a definitive connection between Trump or campaign operatives and Russian officials working in conjunction to affect the 2016 presidential election.
“I think all these stories that keep coming out about the president and his links to Russia, it continues to be the same old, same old, played over and over again,” he said. “The president has made clear that he has no interest in Russia, and yet a lot of these stories that come out with respect to that are fake.”
Spicer was also asked about the latest WikiLeaks dump of leaked information it said was from the CIA. The press secretary, asked if Trump was “outraged,” said he was “extremely concerned” about this, and that “if this were true” it could have a devastating effect on US national security. Spicer also promised that the administration would hold leakers of classified information accountable to the furthest extent of the law.
“Playing with our nation’s national security is not something that should be taken lightly under this administration,” he said.
But an ABC reporter followed up by saying, “When it came to the campaign and Hillary Clinton, the president said, ‘I love WikiLeaks.’
“Does he still feel that way today?” she added.
Spicer said it was an apples-to-oranges comparison.
“There’s a big difference between disclosing John Podesta’s Gmail accounts about a back-and-forth and his undermining of Hillary Clinton and his thoughts on her on a personal nature, and the leaking of classified information,” he said. “There is a massive, massive difference between those two things.”