What In The World Is Devin Nunes Up To?

AP

UPDATE 6:16 p.m.: Schiff addressed these new reports in a press briefing and CNN appearance later Wednesday.

In his second hastily called press briefing on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) did little to quell a storm of speculation he kicked up hours earlier by divulging that the intelligence community “incidentally collected” information about President Donald Trump and his staff during the transition.

Nunes did offer a few new concrete specifics to reporters gathered outside the White House, where he had just briefed the President. These included a firm assertion that Trump’s own communications were caught up in intelligence community reports that were “widely disseminated” among intelligence agencies—a claim he hedged on earlier this afternoon.

Though he did not identify the number of people in these reports, whose identities he said were “inappropriately” unmasked, Nunes replied affirmatively when asked if any of the individuals “currently work at the White House for Mr. Trump.”

Repeating that all the information he has seen to date was collected legally, Nunes also divulged that it “has to deal with FISA and multiple FISA warrants,” referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Nunes rushed to the White House to brief Trump on his recent findings at the same time that his committee is in the middle of an ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, which includes a probe into ties between Trump allies and Russian officials.

Reporters asked him if it was “appropriate” for him to discuss details of classified surveillance reports with Trump and the press, particularly without first consulting his committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), about the content of these reports.

Nunes defended his conduct, claiming the intelligence reports he has seen have “nothing to do with the Russian investigation” and that he had a “duty” to tell the President about “possible surveillance activities.”

The California lawmaker left the door wide open when asked if the surveillance he was referring to was politically motivated.

“What I have read bothers me and I think it should bother the President himself and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate,” he said.

He also said the President “is concerned, and he should be.”

Asked if he could “rule out” that former President Barack Obama or officials in his administration were involved, he replied, “No, I cannot.”

Though none of these new revelations support the President’s assertion that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower by Obama, Trump said that he felt “somewhat vindicated” by these findings.

“I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” he said.

The FBI, NSA, Attorney General and both congressional intelligence committees say there is no evidence to support Trump’s allegation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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