Democrat Schiff says House Russia probe needs to go forward

Two White House official were involved in giving House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes access to intelligence reports that seemed to show that President Donald Trump and his associates were incidentally included in surveillance efforts, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Nunes went on to brief Trump at the White House about the documents, but Schiff said neither he nor anyone else on the committee had been able to view the documents yet, and called into question Nunes' claims. Nunes' committee is heading an investigation into Russia's involvement in the presidential election, and the chairman did not brief his fellow members on the intelligence reports before holding a press conference and meeting with the president on March 22.

"Several current American officials identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel's Office and formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence committee", the report said. The White House quickly embraced Nunes' revelations, saying they vindicated Trump's explosive and unverified claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped his NY skyscraper.

But he suggested the information being made available to lawmakers related to Trump's wiretapping claims, which the President levied on Twitter earlier this month but which officials have struggled to back up. In the letter, White House Counsel Don McGhan wrote the material related to whether "information collected on USA persons was mishandled and leaked".

White House press secretary Sean Spicer last week cast doubt on the idea that the intelligence came from the White House, saying it "doesn't pass the smell test".

Spicer said the information was uncovered by the National Security Council, but would not specify whether it was the same intelligence that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes received at the White House last week.

Cohen-Watnik came into the administration via former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was ousted after it was revealed he misled the administration about his conversations with Russia's US ambassador.

She explained it may have been for political purposes, after Obama's own former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting CIA Director Michael Morell confirmed they have said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.

Schiff said Nunes has still not revealed the intelligence he said he shared with Trump and has pledged to share with the committee, or who Nunes met with at the White House.

"It certainly was a part of our discussion, but beyond what we agreed to do, or hope to achieve to do by the end of the day, I really don't want to get into specifics", Schiff said.

A spokesman for Ryan later said the speaker was not aware of Nunes' source and continues to have "full confidence" in the congressman's ability to run the Russian Federation investigation. The intelligence showed, he said, that Trump was "monitored".

  • Leroy Wright