U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he does not believe Israel planted surveillance devices near the White House in an attempt to capture his cellular telephone activity.
“I don’t believe that. No, I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I really would find that hard to believe.”
Earlier in the day, an investigation by the FBI and other U.S. agencies concluded Israel was responsible, Politico reported, citing three former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” one official told the news outlet on condition of anonymity.
A spokesperson from the Israeli embassy in the U.S. immediately denied the allegations and called them ”absolute nonsense.”
”Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period,” Elad Strohmayer told Politico.
“My relationship with Israel has been great,” Trump said.
He later added: “Anything is possible,” but repeated he does not believe the accusations.
The StingRay devices were discovered near the White House and other “sensitive locations” in the nation’s capital.
They mimic cell towers in a bid to fool cellular telephones into passing location and other identifying information, as well as call and data information.
Trump also said he believes Iran’s leadership wants a meeting with the U.S.
“I can tell you that Iran wants to meet,” he said.
On Monday, Trump said he could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming UN General Assembly meetings in New York.
Tensions have been running high between the U.S. and Iran since Washington unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal last year. The deal was the outcome of protracted negotiations between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany and the EU.
The U.S. has since launched a diplomatic and economic campaign to force Iran to renegotiate the deal. In response, Tehran has reduced its commitment under the nuclear agreement.