Former US President Barack Obama addressed the church congress saying “we can not hide behind a wall.” This year, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is the featured topic, with many big names making an appearance.
Merkel, Obama debate faith and politics
Former US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in front of tens of thousands of people before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Thursday to discuss God, faith and the state of the world.
Speaking on a panel on the first day of Germany’s Protestant Church Assembly, Obama praised Merkel’s “outstanding work” and described her as one of his “favorite partners” during his eight years in office. He lauded Merkel’s handling of the refugee crisis, while at the same time reflected that he “didn’t always have the tools” to end the war in Syria.
“Despite our best efforts, there is a vicious war,” Obama said.
More than 100,000 worshippers attended three open-air services on Wednesday evening in central Berlin to mark the start of the Protestant gathering.
Those attending include Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, philanthropist Melinda Gates, German singer and songwriter Max Giesinger, German climate change researcher Ottmar Edenhofer, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and Israeli author Amos Oz.
REBEL OR RUFFIAN: WHO WAS MARTIN LUTHER?
Luther with hammer and nails
Did Luther really nail his 95 theses to the main door of the Wittenberg Castle church? Reformation historians are still discussing this point 500 years later. In fact, Luther himself never mentioned the theses. Belgian historical painter Ferdinand Pauwels didn’t seem to care – he painted Luther with hammer and nails anyway.
The German Protestant Church Assembly, or “Kirchentag,” which has been held every two years since 1949, is an international and yet typically German event at the same time. It was founded by the East Prussian politician Reinold von Thadden, a member of the Confessing Church, which opposed the Nazi regime. Von Thadden was active in the resistance during the Nazi era and later acted as president of Kirchentag until 1964.
“Apart from the Confessing Church branch, the Protestant Church did not play a laudable role in National Socialism,” says Protestant Church Assembly spokesperson Sirkka Jendis. “That is why dedicated lay people said, ‘We need to create a forum to help ensure that something like that cannot happen again.'”
From the “Protestant Week” in Hanover in 1949 emerged a Protestant lay movement that deliberately set itself apart from the official church and held regular congresses. “The broad scope and public relevance is unique,” says Jendis. In view of the numerous panels on subjects including the flight of refugees, migration, war, tolerance and integration, she says it is clear to her that, “this Church Assembly may become political.”
Von Thadden launched ‘Kirchentag’ in post-war Germany
Current Protestant government leaders in Germany will participate in this year’s congress: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble will discuss what is holding Europe together, the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) chancellor candidate Martin Schulz will talk about credibility and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will take part in the holiday church service in Wittenberg.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere’s whirlwind participation will see him make seven Kirchentag appearances, including one together with Al-Azhar’s Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib. “I think it is great that he is coming to join the discussion,” de Maiziere told the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. “Controversial guests like him are a gain for the Church Assembly.”
But Protestant debate culture also has its limits. There was great opposition to the invitation of 43-year-old Anette Schultner, the national spokesperson of “Christians in the AfD,” a Christian organization of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing populist political party. She wants to explain to visitors why their faith and their membership in the AfD are compatible with each other.
DW exclusive with Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Head of the Protestant Church in Germany
Obama to give speech in Berlin to mark Reformation anniversary
Germany’s protestant church has secured a coup: Barack Obama will address the annual assembly to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It could be Obama’s first major appearance since leaving the presidency. (11.04.2017)
Germany’s Evangelical Church offers ‘long overdue’ apology for Namibia genocide
The Evangelical Church in Germany has asked descendants of the victims of the Herero genocide in Namibia for forgiveness. Petra Bosse-Huber told DW about the church’s role in the genocide. (25.04.2017)
Who was Martin Luther?
In the autumn of 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses, attacking the Pope and corruption within the Roman Catholic Church and thus sparking the Reformation. But who was the man behind the myth? (22.05.2017)
10 things you need to know about the AfD
DW takes a look at the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party – the newest force in German politics. What is it, where did it come from and what role will it play in the 2017 federal election? Here are all the answers. (16.05.2017)
Wittenberg: In the Footsteps of Martin Luther
In 1517, Martin Luther started the Reformation by allegedly nailing his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. Various sites in the city recall these exciting events. Nicole Frölich explores them for us. (19.05.2017)
Obama makes first public speech since leaving office
In his first major address since leaving office, Obama urged young people to help bridge political divides. He spent most of his time on stage listening to comments from students at the university where he once lectured. (25.04.2017)
Reports: Obama warned Trump about Flynn’s Russian ties
Former President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser. The news came just before former acting Attorney General Yates testified to Congress about the controversy. (08.05.2017)
Days after waxing lyrical about the “special relationship” between the UK and the EU, the British premier has hardened her tone. The change came after Angela Merkel said the UK was suffering illusions over its future.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused European Union member states of lining up to oppose Britain ahead of the release of the EU’s negotiating position on Brexit.
“We’ve seen from Chancellor Merkel today, we’ve heard her comments today. We’ve seen that actually there will be times when these negotiations are going to get tough,” May was quoted as saying by the BBC while speaking at a campaign rally in the Labour stronghold of Leeds ahead of the snap general election she called for June.
“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations – at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us,” she said.
“That approach can only mean one thing – uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt,”
May’s combative comments came just days after dining with EU Brexit negotiators and saying the UK had a “commitment to achieving a deep and special partnership with the European Union.”
Merkel stressed in parliament that “a third-party state will not have the same rights or even superior rights to a member state,” referring to the relationship the EU has with non-EU countries such Switzerland and Norway.
“This may sound self-evident, but I have to say this clearly because some in Britain seem to have illusions on this point,” she said. “That would be a waste of time.”
Merkel’s statement on Brexit
EU presents unified front
EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Thursday to underscore their unity ahead of Saturday’s meeting to approve their negotiation position.
“It seems that at the moment we are completely united on everything,” said Vice Premier Louis Grech of Malta, the country that holds the rotating EU presidency. “Naturally we have to protect the EU’s interests.”
He said a prime objective was “to ensure that we will conduct the negotiations in a spirit of unity and trust between the 27.”
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that “we are united.”
Saturday’s EU’s guidelines will inform a tight negotiating mandate for Barnier which should be ready by May 22.
BREXIT: WHAT LIES AHEAD?
What is Article 50?
Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon gives any existing member of the European Union the right to quit unilaterally and outlines the procedure for doing so. It gives the state concerned two years to negotiate a deal for its exit. Once Article 50 is triggered, it cannot be stopped, except by the unanimous consent of all member states.
German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine” reported on Thursday that rental payments from the EU medicines agency in London could also become a sticking point in negotiations. The lease agreement of the EU authority was reportedly signed until 2039, according to a document from the European Parliament, and could cost 347.6 million euros. Various EU members are seeking to be the new home of the institution.
Merkel warns against British ‘illusions’ as Brexit negotiations begin
In an address to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked tough ahead of Saturday’s EU-27 summit on Brexit. The UK, she said, would not be as well positioned as EU member states. (27.04.2017)
British PM May dines with EU leaders as Brexit positions harden
Britain’s Prime Minister May has invited key European Union figures to dinner as they push for British payments of up to 60 billion euros. Her spokesman said the rights of EU citizens would be discussed. (27.04.2017)
Conservatives see strong support in UK ahead of snap election
Nearly half of Britons back Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives, according to an opinion poll published Sunday. It’s an encouraging sign for the Tories, who could be on course for a sweeping election victory. (23.04.2017)
UK election ‘good for EU’ – European Parliament chief
The UK’s upcoming general election should ease pressure on UK PM Theresa May to please her more hard-line supporters, European Parliament chief Antonio Tajani has said. EU citizens’ rights in the UK are also a priority. (20.04.2017)
Britain to lose two key EU agencies within weeks – report
A British newspaper says Brussels will proceed with plans to remove the EU banking and medicine agencies from London after the Brexit vote. A so-called “beauty contest” will be held to decide their new homes. (16.04.2017)
Pre-Brexit deadlock as Northern Ireland talks stall
Sinn Fein, which has been lobbying for an independence referendum, has pulled out of power talks, prolonging an impasse. The collapse adds to Theresa May’s Brexit headaches as she heads to Scotland. (27.03.2017)
Chancellor Merkel has been awarded the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s highest honor for her help preserving memories of the Holocaust. She visited Buchenwald concentration camp with the man after whom the award was named.
Netanyahu to cancel German FM meeting if he visits NGOs
Sigmar Gabriel will have to choose between meeting Israel’s Prime Minister or human rights groups.
Germany must take anti-Semitism fear seriously
Sigmar Gabriel visits Jerusalem as Israel remembers Holocaust
UN Holocaust files reveal Allies’ knowledge
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honored on Monday by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US for her contributions to Holocaust memory and education.
She was awarded the Elie Wiesel Prize – the highest award given by the museum.
The museum said it gave the award for her “unwavering commitment to making the preservation of Holocaust memory a priority for Germany.”
“When the museum was facing staunch opposition in its effort to open the largest closed Holocaust archive in the world, the International Tracing Service, Chancellor Merkel changed her government’s policy and sent her justice minister to the museum to announce Germany’s support for opening the archives, thereby enabling thousands of survivors and their families to discover for the first time the fate of loved ones,” the museum said in a statement.
“The Chancellor has supported the creation and strengthening of Holocaust-related institutions in Germany which have become among the museum’s most important partners. She has repeatedly and vigorously condemned all manifestations of antisemitism.
“Her visit to Buchenwald with the museum’s founding chairman Elie Wiesel in 2009 was symbolic of the many efforts that have been made by Germany to confront its past.”
Merkel thanked the museum for the award, saying in a video message “We owe it to the victims who went through immeasurable suffering to explore these deepest recesses of our being,” referencing a quote by Wiesel.
German ambassador to the US Peter Wittig accepted the award on her behalf in Washington.
Merkel said the award was a “major gesture” of ties between US Holocaust memorial efforts and Germany that was not to be taken for granted.
Merkel said that for Germany to have a bright future, it was essential to understand the Holocaust as “the ultimate betrayal of all civilized values.”
Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel was a tireless human rights campaigner
Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor and the founding chairman of the museum. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 He died last year.
The museum has awarded the prize since 2011 to recognize “internationally prominent individuals whose actions have advanced the museum’s vision of a world where people confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity.”
April 24 was Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah. It marked the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Emmanuel Macron’s supporters appeared confident after his victory in the first round of the French presidential elections. But his opponent, far-right Marine Le Pen, is trailing less than 1 million votes behind him.
The final results from the first round of France’s presidential election’s showed that centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron got almost 1 million more votes than far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Both candidates will now be advancing to a runoff scheduled on May 7.
The 39-year-old candidate is the projected winner in most polls, as initial opinion polls show Le Pen to be 24 to 28 percentage points behind Macron. The Elabe poll says that 64 percent of voters will favor Emmanuel Macron on May 7, while a projection by Ifop Fiducial gave Macron 60 percent of the share.
Narrow but solid win for Macron
Macron and Le Pen in French runoff
Emmanuel Macron collected 24.01 percent in Sunday’s first round of elections, while Le Pen garnered or 21.30 percent of the vote, according to the official final count published by the French Interior Ministry.
Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 percent, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon received 19.58 percent of the vote. Seven other candidates were left far behind.
The turnout at the polls was 77.77 percent – the lowest in a French presidential election for 15 years.
Le Pen distances herself from her party
Sunday’s vote was the best result ever achieved by the anti-EU and anti-immigration Front National (FN) party, headed by Marine Le Pen. In preparation for the May 7 runoff, Le Pen announced that she would be temporarily stepping down as head of the movement.
“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” she said on French public television and also in a tweet.
The move appears to be intended to attract a wider range of voters at the runoff elections who may not necessarily identify with the FN but may feel attracted to some of Le Pen’s populist rhetoric. Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and that the views she was advocating were her own.
French leaders back Macron
Meanwhile Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist candidate who came in first in Sunday’s first round or elections, attracted supported from many of his erstwhile rivals. Incumbent French President Francois Hollande urged voters to choose Emmanuel Macron in the presidential runoff to keep far-right leader Marine Le Pen out. He said on Twitter that he would be casting his vote for the independent candidate.
Macron was Hollande’s top economic adviser between 2012 and 2014, serving as economy minister in his Socialist government thereafter.
Former French conservative candidate Francois Fillon meanwhile announced that he would vote for Macron in the May 7 runoff to try to prevent Le Pen from winning the race. Fillon had been eliminated from the presidential race finishing third on Sunday, behind Macron and Le Pen. Fillon added that he won’t lead his party into June’s parliamentary election in France, saying he had lost his legitimacy as party leader.
Growing support for Macron across EU
The president of the European Parliament has joined calls by various EU leaders who endorsed Macron in the presidential race. Antonio Tajani said he believed far-right candidate Marine Le Pen would lose on May 7, and called on the French public to defend the values of the European Union.
The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, wrote on Twitter that to “see the flags of France and the EU welcome the result of Emmanuel Macron is the hope and future of our generation.”
A number of German lawmakers had earlier commented on Emmanuel Macron’s victory at the first stage of the French elections.
Germany’s foreign minister has welcomed the success of Emmanuel Macron
Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed Macron’s win, and voiced confidence that he would succeed his former party leader, Francois Hollande, as the next president of France, saying that he had the “strongest showing of all candidates.”
“In France, this is about France, of course. But it’s also about Europe and I’m particularly pleased that Macron won in this round because he was the only truly pro-European candidate,” Gabriel commented.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, wrote on Twitter: “Good that Emmauel Macron has been successful with his firm course for a strong EU and a social market economy.”
Macron’s win in the first round of elections also gave a major boost to financial markets across Europe. Germany’s DAX share index hit a record as investors were confident about the outlook of the elections and relieved about the initial outcome. The Paris CAC 40 index meanwhile shot up 4.1 percent. London’s FTSE 100 also made gains of 1.4 percent, while Madrid’s IBEX 35 index rose by 3.5 percent.
+++ Macron, Le Pen qualify for second-round of French presidential election: projections – as it happened +++
France’s centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will go on to the run-off vote in two weeks time, according to preliminary official results from the first round. DW brings you the latest. (23.04.2017)
Opinion: Europe lives to fight another day
France has avoided a runoff between the extreme right and the extreme left by sending Emmanuel Macron to the second round. But the populist danger is still very real, writes Max Hofmann in Paris. (23.04.2017)
European shares surge on French election relief
European bourses have made significant opening gains and the euro briefly vaulted to five-month peaks after the market’s favored candidate, Emmanuel Macron, won through the first round of the French election. (24.04.2017)
Russian politicians see Le Pen as a ‘hope for change’ but expect Macron victory
Following Francois Fillon’s defeat in the first round of the French presidential race, Moscow is taking a close look at the two candidates left. Among many Kremlin politicians, Marine Le Pen is the new preferred choice. (24.04.2017)
“I don’t put my trust in military means, but rather in political pressure being exerted on North Korea from different sides,” Merkel commented, adding that it was in the world’s interest to prevent the country from gaining nuclear arms.
She also called for the United States and China to work together and exert political pressure on Pyongyang.
“If China and the United States do that together, it won’t be without consequence,” Merkel said.
Merkel has called for Trump and China to work together to achieve a peaceful resolution to tension with North Korea
The move reflected Trump’s promise to act unilaterally as needed on the question of North Korea. The United States’ primary fear is that Pyongyang could develop a nuclear missile capable of reaching the west coast of the US.
Chancellor Merkel also called for a political solution to the ongoing six-year civil war in Syria under the framework of the United Nations. She reiterated her view that the US airstrike against a Syrian air force base was “understandable” given the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians earlier in the week, which the US has attributed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“After the understandable US reaction [to the poison gas], everything must now be undertaken under the umbrella of the United Nations and together with Russia to find a political solution to Syria.”
At a ‘low point,’ US and Russia back opposing visions on Syria’s Assad
The US state secretary said Assad’s reign “is coming to an end,” a vision Russia’s foreign minister did not indulge in. Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to probe a chemical weapons attack in Syria. (12.04.2017)
Opinion: US, North Korea, China – diplomacy and saber rattling
A US aircraft carrier is headed for the Korean Peninsula. This may get things moving in the conflict over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, but it also makes the power games in East Asia riskier, says DW’s Matthias von Hein. (10.04.2017)
China’s Xi urges Trump to peacefully resolve North Korea tensions
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has urged US President Trump to seek a peaceful resolution with North Korea after both sides traded fresh provocations. Trump has threatened unilateral action over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. (12.04.2017)
North Korea denounces US naval deployment in west Pacific
Pyongyang has denounced Washington’s “reckless” naval deployment off the Korean peninsula, warning it would “react to any mode of war.” A US naval strike group has made a detour to the west Pacific. (11.04.2017)
US Navy group headed towards Korean Peninsula – US official
Amid growing concerns over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Washington has deployed a Navy carrier group near the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has conducted five nuclear weapons tests despite growing criticism. (09.04.2017)
Trump backtracks from China as ‘currency manipulator’
The US president’s decision has reversed a campaign pledge to punish China for artificially devaluing the Yuan. The change is one of multiple recent events that indicate warming relations between Washington and Beijing. (13.04.2017)
Merkel, German government say US missile strikes in Syria ‘understandable’
Germany has signaled support for the American military action – without explicitly backing it, calling the strikes “limited and targeted.” But the opposition criticized the Trump administration’s move. (07.04.2017)
Germany’s Deputy Finance Minister has called for the introduction of an “Islam law” which should enable more transparency in the Muslim community’s affairs by setting up an official mosque registry and encouraging imams to conduct services in German.
Jens Spahn, member of Chancellor Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) party, has called for significant changes in the way Islam is being practiced in Germany, the Funke Media Group reported on Thursday, according to Die Zeit.
The introduction of an “Islam law” the politician argued, would insure transparency into wider Muslim community practices, in a country whose imams often come from abroad and are financed from foreign sources.
In particular, Spahn called for language tests for the Islamic clerics, adding that it is important for imams to deliver teachings in German to help diminish prejudice against Muslims.
“Such imported imams lead to social disintegration,” he said, adding that Catholic sermons could be understood by everyone, unlike those held in Turkish or Arabic. German sermons, the politician said would also help the German authorities to know “what happens in mosques”.
Spahn also demanded that mosques in Germany be registered since at the moment authorities don’t know “how many mosques there are in Germany, where they are or who finances them.”
The deputy finance minister said currently, there is no central representative for Muslims living in Germany and that the current Islamic associations in the country only represent a very conservative form of religion.
“They speak only for a minority of Muslims. They are the wrong partners,” said Spahn.
To get the proposed law on the road, Spahn urged the federal government to allocate money for training imams, religion teachers and counsellors.
“That will be a hard debate, but I would rather we finance this than that the money comes from Turkey or Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that an additional “church tax” for Muslim communities could be imposed.
Volker Beck from the Green party was quick to reject the proposed law, saying that Germany doesn’t need “an Islam law, a Christianity law or a Buddhism law.”
“The religious communities organize and administer their own affairs,” he said, according to Domradio. Beck argued that while German-trained imams would be a good thing, the initiative should be made optional, not compulsory.
According to Berlin, up to 4.7 million Muslims live in Germany, comprising roughly 5.7 percent of the entire population. Only around 1.9 million of them are German citizens.
WASHINGTON — President Trump refused to back down on Friday after his White House aired an unverified claim that Britain’s spy agency secretly monitored him during last year’s campaign at the behest of President Barack Obama.
Although his aides in private conversations since Thursday night had tried to calm British officials who were livid over the claim, Mr. Trump made clear that he felt the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for. He said his spokesman was simply repeating an assertion made by a Fox News commentator.
“We said nothing,” Mr. Trump told a German reporter who asked about the matter at a joint White House news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “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.” He added: “You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”
Mr. Trump, who has stuck by his unsubstantiated assertion that Mr. Obama ordered his telephone tapped last year despite across-the-board denials, wryly used Ms. Merkel’s visit to repeat his contention. Ms. Merkel was angry during Mr. Obama’s administration at reports that the United States had tapped her cellphone and those of other foreign leaders. Turning to her, Mr. Trump said, “At least we have something in common, perhaps.”
After the news conference Mr. Spicer echoed Mr. Trump’s defiant tone. “I don’t think we regret anything,” he told reporters. “As the president said, I was just reading off media reports.”
Shortly afterward, Fox backed off the claim made by its commentator, Andrew Napolitano. “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” the anchor Shepard Smith said on air. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain said on Friday that the White House had backed off the allegation. “We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and should be ignored,” the spokesman said, on the condition of anonymity in keeping with British protocol. “We’ve received assurances these allegations won’t be repeated.”
Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to Washington, spoke with Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, at a St. Patrick’s Day reception in Washington on Thursday night just hours after Mr. Spicer aired the assertion at his daily briefing. Mark Lyall Grant, the prime minister’s national security adviser, spoke separately with his American counterpart, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
“Ambassador Kim Darroch and Sir Mark Lyall expressed their concerns to Sean Spicer and General McMaster,” a White House official said on the condition of anonymity to confirm private conversations. “Mr. Spicer and General McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story.”
Other White House officials, who also requested anonymity, said Mr. Spicer had offered no regret to the ambassador. “He didn’t apologize, no way, no how,” said a senior West Wing official. The officials said they did not know whether General McMaster had apologized.
The controversy over Mr. Trump’s two-week-old unsubstantiated accusation that Mr. Obama had wiretapped his telephones last year continued to unnerve even fellow Republicans. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said on Friday that Mr. Trump had not proven his case and should apologize to Mr. Obama.
“Frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling truth, I think President Obama is owed an apology,” Mr. Cole told reporters. “If he didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”
The flap with Britain started when Mr. Spicer, in the course of defending Mr. Trump’s original accusation against Mr. Obama, on Thursday read from the White House lectern comments by Mr. Napolitano asserting that the British spy agency was involved. Mr. Napolitano said on air that Mr. Obama had used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the signals agency known as the GCHQ, to spy on Mr. Trump.
The GCHQ quickly and vehemently denied the contention on Thursday in a rare statement issued by the spy agency, calling the assertions “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous.” By Friday morning, Mr. Spicer’s briefing had turned into a full-blown international incident. British politicians expressed outrage and demanded apologies and retractions from the American government.
Mr. Trump’s critics assailed the White House for alienating America’s ally. “The cost of falsely blaming our closest ally for something this consequential cannot be overstated,” Susan E. Rice, who was Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, wrote on Twitter. “And from the PODIUM.”
Mr. Trump has continued to stick by his claim about Mr. Obama even after it has been refuted by a host of current and former officials, including leaders of his own party. Mr. Obama denied it, as did the former director of national intelligence. The F.B.I. director has privately told other officials that it is false. After being briefed by intelligence officials, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have in the last few days said they have seen no indication that Mr. Trump’s claim is true.
Mr. Spicer tried to turn the tables on those statements during his briefing on Thursday by reading from a sheaf of news accounts that he suggested backed up the president. Most of the news accounts, however, did not verify the president’s assertion, while several have been refuted by intelligence officials.
For instance, Mr. Spicer read several articles from The New York Times, which has written extensively on an investigation into contacts between associates of Mr. Trump and Russian officials. The Times has reported that intelligence agencies have access to intercepted conversations as part of that investigation. But it has never reported that Mr. Obama authorized the surveillance, nor that Mr. Trump himself was monitored.
Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said this week that “it’s possible” that Mr. Trump or others were swept up in the course of other surveillance. But when it came to the president’s assertion that Mr. Obama authorized tapping of Trump Tower, he said, “clearly the president was wrong.”
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His Senate counterpart, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, issued a joint statement on Thursday with Senator Mark R. Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, saying they saw “no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”
In pointing the finger at Britain on Thursday, Mr. Spicer read from comments made by Mr. Napolitano on Fox this week. “Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command,” Mr. Spicer read. “He didn’t use the N.S.A., he didn’t use the C.I.A., he didn’t use the F.B.I., and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ.”
“What is that?” Mr. Spicer continued. “It’s the initials for the British intelligence spying agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, ‘The president needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,’ he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.”
In London, outrage quickly followed. “It’s complete garbage. It’s rubbish,” Malcolm Rifkind, a former chairman of Parliament’s intelligence committee, told BBC News.
GCHQ was the first agency to warn the United States government, including the National Security Agency, that Russia was hacking Democratic Party emails during the presidential campaign. That warning stemmed from internet traffic out of Russia containing malware, British officials said.
British officials and analysts were surprised at the tough language in the GCHQ response, especially from an agency that traditionally refuses to comment on any intelligence matter.
There was some annoyance and eye rolling as well. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the last British coalition government, described Mr. Spicer’s repetition of the claims as “shameful” and said Mr. Trump was “compromising the vital U.K.-U.S. security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment.”
Dominic Grieve, the current intelligence committee chairman in Parliament, noted that no president can instruct the GCHQ to act. He pointed to elaborate safeguards that prevent spying on the United States and require “a valid national security purpose” for any monitoring. “It is inconceivable that those legal requirements could be met in the circumstances described,” he said in a statement.
But Downing Street clearly wanted to avoid adding to any embarrassment in Washington while making it clear that Britain had no part in any such wiretapping, and that Britain would not be a party to circumventing the laws of a closely allied country. “We have a close relationship which allows us to raise concerns when they arise, as was true in this case,” the prime minister’s spokesman said. “This shows the administration doesn’t give the allegations any credence.”
British officials said that London had initiated calls of complaint and denial to the White House after Mr. Spicer’s briefing. They also said that British officials had discussed responding earlier, after Mr. Napolitano’s comments were made on air, but acted quickly after those remarks were repeated by the president’s official spokesman.
“I doubt if there will be any long-term damage — the intelligence links between the U.S. and the U.K. are just too strong,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States. “It was unfortunate that the White House spokesman repeated what he’s heard on Fox News without checking the facts. But once he’d done so, GCHQ had no choice but to set the record straight.”
Correction: March 17, 2017
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of Britain’s ambassador to the United States. It is Kim Darroch, not Derroch.