House Intel chair confirms Trump team surveilled after election, while FBI denies wiretap claims
Nunes was given “dozens of reports” that made “no mention of Russia,” he told reporters Wednesday.
“This information was legally brought to me by sources who thought we should know it.”
The information was collected as part of a routine investigation, and is considered “incidental surveillance,” Nunes said. The “normal, formal surveillance” provided “significant information” about Trump and his team during the transition period.
Details about Americans associated with the incoming administration “with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting,” Nunes said. Additional names of Trump transition team members were “unmasked” in the widespread reporting.
Nunes’ statement comes two days after FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee about any surveillance done on Trump Tower in New York during the presidential campaign.
During the hearing, he confirmed that the bureau is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. However, when questioned over Trump's claim that former President Barack Obama ordered surveillance of the billionaire's communications in Trump Tower, Comey stated that he had "no information that supports" the allegation.
Any electronic surveillance must be granted by the courts, and "no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone," the FBI chief added.
The intelligence chair will head to the White House later on Wednesday to brief the Trump administration on what he has learned, Nunes said.
At the White House, Nunes told reporters that the surveillance appeared to be similar to when members of Congress were caught up in NSA spying when talking with ally governments as part of their jobs.
His biggest concern, Nunes said, was that American citizens who were caught up in the incidental surveillance were unmasked, despite their names being protected by law, and that it is unclear who ordered the unmasking.
“What I’ve 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,” Nunes said, adding that it was hard to say how important these revelations are until all the information is presented to the committee.
If it's not about Russia, not illegal, and maybe classified info, why would Nunes say it? https://t.co/qmIDoHXZVb— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) March 22, 2017
The House Intelligence Committee has asked multiple intelligence agencies for more information about these reports, which number in the several dozen, Nunes said. While the NSA has been cooperative, the FBI has not.
The ranking member, Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), blasted Nunes for speaking to reporters about his concerns before speaking with Schiff and the rest of the committee, which he said Nunes still hadn’t done.
"The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation,” Schiff said in a statement. “I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way."
Today, Chairman Nunes shared information with WH still withheld from our committee. He cannot conduct a credible investigation this way. pic.twitter.com/wwrp7H7JWC— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 22, 2017
Nunes spoke with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) before briefing the president, and told reporters he would brief the rest of the committee later on in the day.
When asked, Trump said he feels “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ comments.