Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano has reportedly been taken off air following his unsubstantiated charge that a British intelligence service surveilled then-candidate Donald Trump on behalf of then-President Barack Obama.
CNN’s Brian Stelter noted Napolitano’s absence from the airwaves Monday night – especially unusual given Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirming hearing and the House Intelligence Committee’s open hearing in part on connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Both stories would normally be red meat for the legal analyst.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday, citing unnamed people familiar with the situation, that Napolitano isn’t expected on air “any time in the near future.”
A representative of Fox News did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.
CNN’s Stelter wrote Tuesday that Napolitano hadn’t been on air since Thursday. That’s when White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited his article – previewed on “Fox and Friends” March 14 and published on Fox News’ and Napolitano’s personal websites on March 16 – as part of a lengthy reading series of wiretapping-releated articles.
Spicer suggested that Napolitano’s article, and the many others he read from the press briefing room podium Thursday, added credence to Trump’s own unsubstantiated claim that President Obama had had his “wires tapped” during the 2016 campaign. Congressional leaders and the FBI have knocked down the claim.
Napolitano, citing unspecified “sources,” claimed that the British Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, “most likely provided Obama with transcripts of Trump’s calls” so that Obama would not leave a paper trail of his ordering surveillance on Trump.
A spokesman for GCHQ told the network that the allegations were “nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.” While Fox New’s postings on the subject included that response, Napolitano’s website did not.
On Friday, Trump said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “we said nothing” about the article, aside from Spicer reading it aloud. “You should be talking to Fox,” he told a journalist who asked about Napolitano’s charge.
Fox News anchors said later on Friday that they could not stand behind Napolitano’s claim.
On March 4, Trump claimed on Twitter that Obama had ordered his phones tapped. The FBI director and NSA director said in testimony to the House Intelligence Committee Monday that they had seen no evidence to support that charge.
NSA Director Mike Rodgers denied Napolitano’s claim specifically, and said that it “clearly frustrates a key ally of ours.”