Sean Spicer angrily defends Trump's wiretap claims in wild, contentious press briefing

White House press secretary Sean Spicer sparred with reporters in a contentious Thursday press briefing over President Donald Trump's explosive wiretapping claims, on which bipartisan Senate leaders cast doubt earlier in the day.

Spicer had confrontational back-and-forth exchanges with several reporters, including ABC's Jonathan Karl and CNN's Jim Acosta, the latter of whom the president has previously referred to as "fake news."

Karl began by asking Spicer about the Senate Intelligence Committee leaders' Thursday statement saying there were "no indications" Trump was wiretapped, which the president accused President Barack Obama of illegally doing.

Earlier in the week, Spicer said he was "extremely confident" the Department of Justice would find evidence to back up Trump's claim.

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Outgoing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer waves as he walks into the White House in Washington, U.S., July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (L-R), Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speak to reporters after the Congressional Budget Office released its score on proposed Republican health care legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

White House Communications Director Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 2, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) takes questions during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer conducted his first official White House daily briefing to take questions from the members of the White House press corps.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC.

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U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

White House spokesman Sean Spicer takes questions during his press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Trump aide Omarosa Manigault (C) watches as White House spokesman Sean Spicer (R) arrives for a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Rivals Brad Woodhouse (left) and Sean Spicer pose for a photograph outside Bullfeathers in Washington, D.C. on November 08, 2011. Sean Spicer and Brad Woodhouse (spokesmen for the RNC and DNC) hosts Congressional and other flacks to the 1st Annual 'Flacks for Flacks Who Wear Flak Jackets' Benefiting Military Public Affairs Officers serving in Afghanistan.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds up paperwork highlighting and comparing language about the National Security Council from the Trump administration and previous administrations during the daily press briefing at the White House, January 30, 2017 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that he will reveal his 'unbelievably highly respected' pick to replace the late Supreme Court Antonin Scalia on Tuesday evening. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer leaves after a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room February 14, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. Spicer discussed on various topics including the resignation of Michael Flynn from his position as National Security Adviser. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump advisor Steve Bannon (2L), White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R), and White House spokesman Sean Spicer look on before the announcement of the Supreme Court nominee at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer removes lint from Senior White House Advisor Stephen Miller's jacket as he waits to go on the air in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, center, attends a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a hallmark of our democracy.

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White House Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller (L) carries a red USA hat and a copy of Fortune magazine with U.S. President Donald Trump on the cover as he and Communications Director Sean Spicer (R) deplane from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Sean Spicer, left, is the new communications director for the Republican National Committee, and Rick Wiley, is the RNC� new political director.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, arrives to a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a 'hallmark of our democracy.'

(Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stands alongside his wife, Mary Pat, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L), as US President Donald Trump signs House Joint Resolution 41, which removes some Dodd-Frank regulations on oil and gas companies, during a bill signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 14, 2017. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer makes a statement to members of the media at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. This was Spicer's first press conference as Press Secretary where he spoke about the media's reporting on the inauguration's crowd size.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller(L) and Sean Spicer, arrive to meet with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York on January 10, 2017.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer makes a statement to members of the media at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. This was Spicer's first press conference as Press Secretary where he spoke about the media's reporting on the inauguration's crowd size.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a photo with his cell phone on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, updates waiting media on progress of the meeting as House Republicans, eager to put a fresh face on their leadership team as they head into difficult November elections, chose John A. Boehner of Ohio as their new majority leader. Boehner beat out interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt of Missouri on the second ballot, 122-109. John Shadegg of Arizona, a late entrant into the race, was knocked out on the first ballot, when he drew 40 votes to 79 for Boehner and 110 for Blunt. Jim Ryun of Kansas drew two votes.

(Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, incoming press secretary for President-elect Donald Trump leaves from Trump Tower after meetings on January 5, 2017, in New York.

(KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Chief Strategist and Communications Director at the Republican National Committee, Sean Spicer is interviewed in his office at the committee's headquarters on Monday August 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.

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National security adviser General Michael Flynn (L) arrives to deliver a statement next to Press Secretary Sean Spicer during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer conducted his first official White House daily briefing to take questions from the members of the White House press corps.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks as television screen displays journalists who participate in the daily briefing via Skype at the White House in Washington U.S., February 1, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Donald Trump gestures to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) as he makes remarks to the press as he sits down for a working lunch with members of his cabinet and their spouses, including Veteran's Administration Secretary David Shulkin (2nd R) at Trump National Golf Club, Potomac Falls,Virginia, in suburban Washington, U.S., March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
POTOMAC FALLS, VA - MARCH 11: White House Pres Secretary Sean Spicer briefs the press pool as President Donald Trump has a working lunch with staff and cabinet members and significant others at his golf course, Trump National on March 11, 2017 in Potomac Falls, Virginia. (Photo by Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: White House Press secretary Sean Spicer points as he answers questions from members of the media and reporters, seen reflected in an exit sign, during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
(COMBO)(FILES) This combination of file pictures created on July 21, 2017 shows former assistant to US President Donald Trump Anthony Scaramucci attending a meeting on the opening day of the World Economic Forum, on January 17, 2017 in Davos, and White House spokesman Sean Spicer during a press briefing on June 20, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. Sean Spicer resigned as White House press secretary Friday in protest at a major shakeup of Donald Trump's embattled administration, an official told AFP. Spicer -- the administrations most recognizable face after the president -- resigned after just six months in office, having been increasingly sidelined in recent weeks. Spicer reached breaking point on Friday, the White House official said, when Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci to be the new communications director, a bid to reset the scandal-wracked administration. / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI AND NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI,NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefs members of the media during a daily briefing at the White House July 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Olivier Douliery (Photo credit should read OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Spicer launched into a lengthy, minutes-long rant after Karl presented him with this information, saying the media does not cover similar statements from the agencies when they are in favor of Trump's position on an issue, such as possible ties to Russia. When something has the opposite slant, Spicer said, it is covered "ad nauseam."

He also insisted the president, who said as much in a Wednesday interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, meant surveillance generally when he tweeted about wiretapping. At one point, Spicer engaged in a shouting match with Karl and asked the ABC White House correspondent to "calm down."

Spicer then cited a number of sources he believed backed up the White House's side of the argument. He listed reports from the New York Times, Heat Street, and Circa News, as well as a diatribe from unabashed pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Karl followed up after the lengthy rehashing of news reports, asking if the president still stands by his allegation even after both the House and Senate intelligence committees suggested it was untrue. Spicer said that the "House and the Senate has not been provided all the information," prompting a rebuke from a spokesperson to Senate Intellignece Committee Vice Chair Sen. Mark Warner.

"The bipartisan leaders of the Intelligence Committee would not have made the statement they made without having been fully briefed by the appropriate authorities," the spokesperson said.

Spicer said Trump still stands by his assertion, circling back to asking Karl why he wasn't "coming to the defense" of the intelligence committees when they were disputing connections to Russia.

That's when Acosta followed up.

"You were just quoting Sean Hannity there," he said, later adding Spicer was also citing Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano.

Spicer said Acosta was "cherry picking" the sources he was citing, reiterating that he listed The New York Times.

But Acosta went back to mentioning what was stated by the intelligence committees, refuting Trump's assertion.

Spicer continued doubling down on his previous points.

"That sounds like, Sean, what you and the president are saying is 'well, we don't mean wiretapping anymore because that's not true anymore,'" Acosta said.

"No, no, that's not true!" Spicer exclaimed.

"What's it going to be next?" Acosta asked.

Spicer called that question "cute," but said the point about what Trump meant by his tweets have been discussed in the briefing room for days.

The press secretary later added that Acosta was coming to "serious conclusions" about Trump's assertions "for a guy that has zero intelligence."

Some in the room broke out in laughter.

"Give me some credit Sean, a little intelligence maybe," Acosta said.

Spicer added with a smile that he meant to include "clearance" in his statement.

"You seem to know all the answers," Spicer said.

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