Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Thursday that the White House’s announcement of materials relevant to his panel’s investigation raises “profound questions” about how and why that information was made available, and to whom.
“I was informed in a letter from White House counsel that the National Security Council staff found these materials in the ordinary course of business,” Schiff told reporters at a press briefing. “Now, that timing concerns me.”
During his daily briefing on Thursday, President Donald Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the White House would invite the chairs and ranking members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to view information he said was related to a request by the panels.
“In the ordinary course of business, national security staff discovered documents that we believe are in response to your March 15th, 2017 letter to the intelligence community seeking ‘documents necessary to determine whether information collected on U.S. persons was mishandled and leaked,’” Spicer said.
His announcement came shortly after the New York Times reported that two White House officials helped provide House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) with intelligence reports allegedly showing that communications of members of Trump’s transition were picked up by incidental surveillance.
Schiff said that he replied to the letter and is “more than willing to come to the White House at the earliest opportunity to review the materials,” but said he made clear in his reply that the full House panel will eventually need access to the materials as well.
He questioned why the materials came to the White House by way of Nunes rather than by a more direct route.
“If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing,” Schiff said. “I have asked the White House for their assistance in answering those questions as well.”
He said that he asked the White House for its assistance in getting to the bottom of the matter.
“We want to find out also if, in fact, these are the same as — or a subset of — the same materials earlier provided to the chairman, why that circuitous method, to use a diplomatic term, was employed to provide them to the committee,” Schiff said.
He said those questions will not distract the committee from its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has ground to a halt amid questions about Nunes’ credibility and calls for the chair to recuse himself (including from Schiff himself).
“If that’s the object here, it will not be successful,” Schiff said. “That work will go on regardless.”