White House spokesman Sean Spicer referred reporters to previous news stories about surveillance in the 2016 election when asked whether U.S. President Donald Trump has an obligation prove his claim that former president Barack Obama was spying on him.
In answering, Spicer referred to a report from Fox News’ Bret Baier, as well as unnamed reports from the BBC and the New York Times.
“From the White House’s perspective, there’s no question that there’ve been an abundance of reports regarding surveillance and other type activities that occurred during the 2016 election.”
Trump’s accusations against Barack Obama came amid a swirling political controversy surrounding his associates’ possible ties to Russia. The FBI is investigating Trump associates’ contacts with Russia during the election, as are House and Senate intelligence committees.
The White House has asked those committees to also investigate Trump’s allegations against Obama. The House committee has turned the matter back on the Trump administration, setting a Monday deadline for the Justice Department to provide evidence.
When asked if this was Trump’s only evidence for his claims, Spicer referred reporters back to the intelligence committee’s investigation.
WATCH: Spicer tells reporters that DOJ will investigate Trump’s tweet claim
Spicer also tried to soften Trump’s assertions, saying the president “doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally.” He also said the president wasn’t using the term wiretapping literally in his provocative March 4 tweets and was instead broadly referring to surveillance.
Trump’s critics have slammed the president for making the explosive wiretapping claim on his Twitter account without evidence. Wiretapping a U.S. citizen would require special permission from a court, and Trump as president would have the ability to declassify that information.
Sen. John McCain, an influential Republican, said Sunday: “I think the president has one of two choices: either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve.”
When asked whether or not the president has “an obligation to prove” his claim, Spicer again dodged the question.
“He does, and we’ve made it very clear we expect the House and the Senate intelligences committees to do their job… Once they come out with their report, we can talk about the conclusions of their report.”
Trump’s aides are in the awkward position of trying to defend their boss’ unproven claims.
Senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said earlier Monday that she didn’t have any evidence but pointed to recent revelations about other government surveillance.
WATCH: Spicer gets into heated exchange with reporters over Trump’s credibility
The issue of the truthfulness of Trump’s claims was also brought up during Monday’s briefing.
“Whenever the president says something, can we trust it to be real?” one reporter asked.
“If he’s not joking, of course,” Spicer replied.
Spicer added that “every time” Trump speaks with authority “he’s speaking as the president of the United States”
*With files from the Associated Press