House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) torpedoed the credibility of his investigation into Russia’s interference of the election by sharing related details with President Donald Trump, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) charged Wednesday.
In a steely press briefing, Schiff said that Nunes acted like a “surrogate of the White House” by going to Trump and the press with reports that the intelligence community “incidentally collected” information about President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team in the months after the election.
Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said it was a “deep, deep problem” that these reports were not first disclosed to him and the other committee members and that “there is no way we can conduct this investigation” if Nunes continued to relay information to the Trump administration.
Nunes’ unusual actions make “the most profound case for the formation of an independent commission” into Russia’s role in the election and ties between Trump staffers and Russian officials, Schiff said.
House Democratic members have previously made this case for an independent commission but been rebuffed. Schiff said he “certainly” intends to follow up with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on the matter.
Schiff also took issue with Nunes’ suggestion that any information collected about Trump and his team was obtained or disclosed inappropriately.
“Based on what the chairman told me, the names were masked apart from a single name which wasn’t necessarily anyone connected with the Trump Organization,” Schiff said. “The concern the chair raised with me was that the names that were masked he believed were associated with the President or his associates.”
Nunes himself said repeatedly that all the information he’s seen in these intelligence committee reports was collected lawfully.
“Did he unmask the president today?” one reporter asked of Nunes, who said Wednesday that Trump’s own communications were caught up in the reports.
“I don’t know,” Schiff replied.
Nunes, himself a member of the executive committee of Trump’s transition team, previously expressed serious concerns that classified information was leaking to the press.
In an interview with CNN immediately following his press conference, Schiff suggested that the new reports could be an effort by the White House, with Nunes’ collaboration, to “throw a cloud” over Trump’s unfounded charge that he was wiretapped by former President Barack Obama.
Trump said this afternoon that he felt “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ claims.
Repeating that intelligence agencies have found no evidence to support Trump’s allegation, Schiff said, “I don’t think anything is vindicated here except the President’s commitment to now quadruple down on a baseless accusation against his predecessor.”