White House Says Intelligence Panels Can See Surveillance Data

Schiff also said he's asked the White House if the materials he's been invited to view are the same as the intelligence viewed by Nunes last week.

While the House investigation has been stymied by the dispute over the material shown to Nunes, the Senate intelligence panel is proceeding with its investigation beginning with a public hearing on Thursday.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer chastised a reporter during Thursday's press briefing for asking the same question in different forms after other journalists had already pushed him on the issue.

Nunes said last week that he had seen materials that "clearly show the president-elect and his team were at least monitored" during the transition.

The revelation on Thursday that White House officials disclosed the reports, which Nunes then discussed with Trump, is likely to fuel criticism that the intelligence chairman has been too eager to do the bidding of the Trump administration while his committee is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation of Russia's meddling in the presidential election.

Democrats, including ranking member Adam Schiff, say Nunes is too close to the White House to run a fair investigation and should step aside. When you said that "doesn't pass the smell test" on March 23, now there's reporting that ... they were the sources on this. "I do think that the White House has a lot of questions to answer".

In a move that now seems weird, Nunes subsequently announced his discovery of that information-and briefed Donald Trump on it-without mentioning that he had obtained it at a meeting on White House grounds. It would be impossible to tell if people were properly masked, and security properly maintained, without knowing the process by which the information was handled and distributed. "In order to comment on that story would be to validate things that I'm not at liberty to do", Spicer said.

NYT reports that earlier this month when Trump went on his Twitter tirade claiming former President Barack Obama had wiretapped his Trump Tower office, "Mr. Cohen-Watnick began reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials".

Cohen-Watnik, meanwhile, is a holdover staffer brought in by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump forced to resign after reports revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence regarding conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Soon after the Times story appeared online, Spicer said the White House had sent a letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairs and Democratic ranking members.

This is similar to the way that Nunes has described the intelligence himself, as a look at foreign officials which overlapped with those in the Trump Administration.

The president has not yet provided specific proof, but the White House had pointed to a litany media reports suggesting that members of Trump's team had been surveilled, although not in the way Trump initially suggested.

The chain of events - and who helped provide the intelligence to Nunes - was detailed to The New York Times by four USA officials.

  • Zachary Reyes