Fox News benches Andrew Napolitano after dropping his Trump wiretapping claims

Graham Lanktree
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Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has been pulled from the channel's broadcasts after President Donald Trump repeated his claim British spies wiretapped Trump Tower on behalf of former President Barack Obama.

On Fox & Friends on 14 March Napolitano said he spoke with three intelligence sources who confirmed Obama went "outside the chain of command" to spy on Trump. The Fox News Channel has disavowed those claims and now pulled Napolitano from appearing on air, a source told the Associated Press.

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Obama "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," Napolitano said during the broadcast, before accusing British intelligence agency GCHQ of providing a wiretap.

Britain dismissed the report as "nonsense" after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated the claims during a press briefing last week. Spicer was later forced to apologise to Britain, but said he had "no regrets" about making the claims.

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When questioned about the White House decision to repeat the claims, Trump said "all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it. You shouldn't be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox."

Napolitano's claims followed Trump's assertion in a series of tweets on 4 March that he was illegally wiretapped by his presidential predecessor. Trump's claims emerged as a series of intelligence agency investigations examine any connections between his 2016 election campaign and Russian officials who worked to influence the election.

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On Monday 20 March FBI director James Comey gave testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that he and the Department of Justice "have no information that supports" Trump's claim he was wiretapped by Obama. Comey spoke during a hearing investigating Russia's alleged attempts to influence the American election.

The White House later pushed back against Comey's denials. "I think there is continuing to be a very, very literal interpretation of [Trump's] tweet, which is whether or not there was wiretapping," said Spicer in a media briefing on Monday. "I think that we are still at the beginning phase of a look as to what kind of surveillance occurred and why."

"Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way," Fox's Shepard Smith said on air on 17 March.

From 1987 to 1995 Napolitano worked as a New Jersey Superior Court judge and joined Fox News as a senior judicial analyst in 1998.

Judge Andrew Napolitano

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