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WASHINGTON — A pair of White House officials helped provide Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed that President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.
The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Mr. Nunes then discussed with Mr. Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.
It is the latest twist of a bizarre Washington drama that began after dark on March 21, when Mr. Nunes got a call from a person he has described only as a source. The call came as he was riding across town in an Uber car, and he quickly diverted to the White House. The next day, Mr. Nunes gave a hastily arranged news conference before going to brief Mr. Trump on what he had learned the night before from — as it turns out — White House officials.
"I remain even more concerned about … the incidental collection of Americans that were possibly tied to the Trump campaign that could have been leaked, similar to Gen. Flynn, and secondly, the unmasking of Americans' names, potentially for political purposes," Nunes said. "We're continuing to ask more about that."
Were the communications of officials or associates of any campaign subject to any kind of improper surveillance? The Intelligence Community has extremely strict procedures for handling information pertaining to any U.S. citizens who are subject even to incidental surveillance, and this Committee wants to ensure all surveillance activities have followed all relevant laws, rules, and regulations. Let me be clear: we know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.
Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.
Nunes held a brief press conference Wednesday afternoon saying that “on numerous occasions the Intelligence Community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” But Nunes’s vague statements raised a host of questions, and his decision to announce them publicly and then go to the White House to brief President Trump, having not informed Democrats on the committee about his new findings, cast a pall of politics over the proceedings.
Yeah well if you’d look at, in fact I’ll give you the front page story, and just today I heard, just a little while ago, that Devin Nunes had a news conference, did you hear about this, where they have a lot of information on tapping. Did you hear about that?
“I don't know what he actually briefed the president on, but I don't know why he would come up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer said.
“That doesn't really seem to make a ton of sense,” he added. “I'm not aware of it, but it doesn't really past the smell test.”
"We don't have networked access to these kinds of reports in Congress," Nunes said. He added that his source was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official.
Nunes and his spokesman said he went to the White House to meet his source because there was a facility there for reviewing classified information. “Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” the spokesman, Jack Langer, said.
A similar facility exists on Capitol Hill, however, which Nunes would routinely have access to.
Langer said the source of Nunes’ information was not a White House staff member.
NUNES: No. And in fact, I'm quite sure that people in the West Wing had no idea I was there.
“He has said, from my understanding on the record, that he did not meet with White House staff,” Spicer said at another point.
But when the information that is occurring now, which is two individuals who were properly cleared — or three, or whoever [Nunes] met with, I don’t know — that they are sharing stuff that is entirely legal with the appropriate clearances — and then there is an obsession on the process.
If there's nothing to the suspicions, then why all the shady shenanigans? Why all the lying? When do we starting calling this what it is?
A COVER UP.