UPDATE — 3:13 p.m. EDT: Speaking at a Thursday press conference on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes is a “stooge” of President Trump and “acted outside the circle of respect” for comments made Wednesday
“By being a stooge of the president of the United States he has demonstrated very clearly that there is no way there can be an impartial investigation under his leadership on that committee,” she said.
Nunes’ committee is charged with the task of probing potential Russian ties with Trump’s 2016 campaign and the president’s claim then-President Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R- Calif.) said Wednesday there is evidence the U.S. intelligence community has information on some members of Donald Trump’s transition team due to individual contact with surveillance targets.
Spy agencies label it “incidental collection” when they collect surveillance data from an individual who is not the intended target.
“I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community . . . collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes said.
The Trump administration quickly rallied around Nunes’ comments and pointed to them as proof of Trump’s claim of wiretapping.
President Trump said that Nunes’ claims make him feel “somewhat” vindicated and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer read a statement from the intelligence committee head at Wednesday’s press briefing.
Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, immediately rushed to brief the president about his findings before telling other committee members, something he was lambasted for by House Democrats. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), who sits on the committee, took issue with how Nunes disseminated the information he received.
“What if it’s one of the president’s people who is being investigated?” Himes said. “Is he going to damage the investigation? It all feels very, very odd.”
Although the information Nunes received is interesting to say the least, it does not prove former President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, as he has claimed.
The Trump administration has been eager to find any shred of proof to back up the president’s allegations after FBI Director James Comey said he has seen no evidence of any such wiretap. Nunes acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agencies collected the information legally and conversations that were collected took place from November 2016 until January.
Nunes also said the conversations had nothing to do with Russia, and the surveillance of Trump transition members is a separate issue from the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election. However, some Democrats pointed to Nunes’ actions as an example of why the chairman is unable to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.
“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Confused by all of this? Don’t worry, everyone is. The only thing in the news more complicated right now is Paul Manafort’s tangled money trail and equally tangled allegiances.
[Politico] [Reuters] [CNN] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy J. Scott Applewhite/AP via U.S. News & World Report]