Obama in Berlin for landmark church assembly

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.

Watch video02:55

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.

The former US president warned of succumbing to nationalism and a closed world – an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump.

Reports: Obama warned Trump about Flynn’s Russian ties

Obama makes first public speech since leaving office

“In this new world we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t hide behind a wall,” he said before the gate that once separated East and West Berlin.

Obama has made few appearances since leaving office. He said he spent time with his family, working on his foundation for youth and catching up on lost sleep.

Obama is the most famous guest among the approximately 140,000 expected participants at the four-day “Kirchentag.”

It is a star-studded occasion: 2,500 events, 30,000 contributors and guests from all over the world celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the Protestant culture of debate.

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.

A new movement

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.”

Reinold von Thadden-Trieglaff (picture-alliance/dpa)Von Thadden launched ‘Kirchentag’ in post-war Germany

Controversial guests

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.

Watch video02:21

DW exclusive with Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Head of the Protestant Church in Germany

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Theresa May turns combative ahead of Brexit negotiations

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.

Großbritannien Wahlkampf Theresa May (picture-alliance/dpa/PA Wire/A. Devlin)

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.”

British illusions

May was responding to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning to the UK on Thursday against “illusions” over the exit process.

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.”

Watch video00:25

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.

60 billion euro bill

The EU is expected to push on issues such as the treatment of EU expats, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland.

Some reports claim the EU could hold Britain liable for costs until at least a year after it leaves, at a possible cost of 60 billion euros (US$65 billion).

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded angrily to those claims.

“If you’re saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks, then that is obviously not going to happen,” he told the BBC.

Northern Ireland

Ireland was expected to push for automatic membership of Northern Ireland to the EU if the two ever reunified.

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.

Negotiations will likely start after Britain’s June 8 election, in which May is seeking to crush a weakened Labour party.

Watch video26:00

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Merkel awarded Elie Wiesel Prize for preservation of Holocaust memory

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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a wreath laying ceremony during her visit to the concentration camp Dachau (picture-alliance/AP Photo/K. Joensson)

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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.

I am honored to have accepted the Elie Wiesel Award, the highest honor of @HolocaustMuseum, on behalf of Chancellor Angela Merkel tonight

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 listens to US President George W. Bush at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (picture-alliance/dpa/Brack Pool)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.

Macron leads in polls as France prepares to vote in runoff elections

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.

Frankreich Wahl Macron Jubel (Reuters/B. Tessier)

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

Watch video02:47

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.

“Je me mets en congé de la présidence du @FN_officiel : je ne suis plus que la candidate à la présidentielle.”

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.

La mobilisation s’impose mais aussi la clarté des choix. Je voterai @EmmanuelMacron.

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.”

Voir les drapeaux de la et de l’ saluer le résultat de @emmanuelmacron, c’est l’espoir et le futur de notre génération

A number of German lawmakers had earlier commented on Emmanuel Macron’s victory at the first stage of the French elections.

Watch video00:42

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.”

Gut, dass @EmmanuelMacron mit seinem Kurs für eine starke EU + soziale Marktwirtschaft Erfolg hatte. Alles Gute für die nächsten 2 Wochen.

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.

Only Russia appeared to side with Marine Le Pen, saying that she might provide “hope for change” in Moscow’s view, while Macron is viewed as the least favorable candidate for the Kremlin.

ss/bw (AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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Merkel: China and US can team up to peacefully sway North Korea

The German chancellor has called for the two nations to put diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions. She also called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria.

Deutschland CDU Bundesparteitag in Essen Rede Merkel (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach )

In light of growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear program, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German media group Funke on Thursday that she believes political pressure, rather than military might, can de-escalate the threat.

“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.

USA Donald Trump und Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/C. May)Merkel has called for Trump and China to work together to achieve a peaceful resolution to tension with North Korea

The chancellor’s comments came one day after China’s President Xi Jinping similarly advocated a peaceful solution to tensions with North Korea, during a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump.

At the end of last week and just days after North Korea fired several ballistic missiles into the East Sea, the US sent several warships, including an aircraft carrier, towards the divided Korean Peninsula – a move Pyongyang described as American aggression.

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.

However, in a sign of potential further diplomatic cooperation between Washington and Beijing, Trump on Wednesday indicated he was willing to relax US trade policy on China in exchange for aid in addressing North Korea.

Peaceful resolution in Syria

Watch video01:22

Merkel: US attack on Syria is ‘understandable’

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.”

Russia, which supports al-Assad and provides military aid to pro-government forces, has insisted that only Syrians themselves can decide on a political transition for the war-torn country. However, Merkel insisted that al-Assad cannot be permitted to remain in power, a view which the Trump administration similarly voiced aloud during a visit on Wednesday by the US secretary of state to Moscow to discuss the Syrian conflict.

Watch video00:28

Tillerson: Reign of Assad family coming to an end

cmb/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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German official wants ‘Islam law’ to shed light on funding & teachings by ‘imported imams’

German official wants ‘Islam law’ to shed light on funding & teachings by ‘imported imams’
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.

Trump Offers No Apology for Claim on British Spying

Photo

President Trump and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, at their news conference at the White House on Friday. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

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.”

 

Video

White House Alleges That Britain Spied

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, on Thursday quoted Fox News coverage implicating Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters in a wiretapping of Trump Tower. President Trump “stands by” his original accusations of surveillance, Mr. Spicer said.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Al Drago/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

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.”

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.