The apparent source for Donald Trump’s claims that the UK and Barack Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower before the election told CNN that people should “not take [his] word” for it.
Larry C Johnson, the former CIA official turned conspiracy theorist, was discovered to be the person who told Fox analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano that the US President had been subject to illegal surveillance techniques.
He said he had been told the information in January by “two people within the intelligence community”, not directly, but from people who “were in a position to know”.
“I’ve got out of the business of giving other people like him [Mr Napolitano] advice; they don’t listen to me anyway,” he said. “I think the Judge is an honourable man and I think his heart is in the right place.”
He added: “Trump shouldn’t have used the word 'wiretap'. But clearly, I have seen, there is an information, what I call an information operation, that’s been directed, I believe, directed against President Trump and people like [former Director of the CIA] John Brennan and [former US Director of National Intelligence] Jim Clapper.”
Mr Johnson was pressed on the fact that he had not been given this information directly.
“Don’t take my word for it,” Mr Johnson responded, adding that people should look to the “evidence” throughout the campaign, and that it “had not come out of nowhere”.
The President tweeted on 4 March that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower last year, adding Mr Obama was either a “sick” or a “bad guy”.
Mr Trump added later that he had done nothing except “quote a clearly talented legal mind”, referring to Judge Napolitano.
But Mr Johnson told CNN that the judge had “not got it right either” and that the President should not have tweeted the word “wiretap”.
He also misnamed the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) several times, referring to the intelligence agency as the “GHCQ”.
“The substance of what he’s saying, again, he [Mr Napolitano] didn’t get it right, accurate either.
“I’m not saying that the British, GHCQ, was wiretapping Trump’s Tower,” he said.
“But let’s just make a simple point. In the New York Times two days ago, they noted that the very first agency to notify that the DNC [Democratic National Committee] had been hacked was GHCQ, the British version of the NSA.”
Despite a lack of evidence of such surveillance, the White House pressured Congress into investigating the claims.
The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, David Nunes, told CNN that there “never has been” any evidence behind the theory.
The day after Mr Trump tweeted the allegations in early March, Mr Johnson was interviewed on Russia Today, where he threw further fuel on the fire about operations to undermine the President.
He was asked this week on CNN why a former US official would agree to talk about the subject on a “Kremlin propaganda network”.
“It’s not a Kremlin propaganda network,” he responded.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Mr Johnson was found to previously peddle falsehoods, including that former First Lady Michelle Obama had given a racist speech against white people and that former Secretary of State John Kerry had committed sexual assault.
Several lawmakers including Democrat Adam Schiff have said they expect FBI Director James Comey to officially throw cold water on the wiretapping claims next week.