Is Nunes Toast? White House Struggles to Explain Who Leaked Intelligence
- Author: Salvatore Jensen Apr 02, 2017,
Apr 02, 2017, 2:31
Four weeks after a TV appearance by a former Obama administration official, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has singled out the interview as evidence of an Obama administration conspiracy to undermine President Donald Trump's new administration with damaging leaks.
His behavior has been strongly criticized by Democrats, and the party's ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, has called on Nunes to step down from his chairman's post.
The documents to be reviewed apparently were the basis for controversial comments by Congressman Devin Nunes that were seen by some as bolstering President Donald Trump's charge that his campaign team was "wiretapped" a year ago on the orders of former President Barack Obama.
"Why weren't they presented in a more transparent way to the committee?" he asked.
Nunes has been mum on who at the White House showed him the materials.
After the meeting, reporters asked Nunes why he risked compromising the House investigation into Trump's alleged Russian Federation ties by briefing the president even before the top Democrat on the committee. "And fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team", he added.
The FBI, in an extraordinary admission, confirmed publicly last week it was probing the possibility of such collusion.
But, she emphasized in a Twitter post Wednesday, she had no information of her own, and was merely in contact with her former colleagues at the White House. Instead, the official said, Cohen was assembling materials out of concern that intelligence information on US people was being shared too widely and that unmasking rules were being abused.
"It strains credulity to think that Trump would need Nunes to tell him about intelligence reports discovered by people who work in the White House".
Schiff went to the White House Friday at the Trump's administration's invitation.
Sean, couple of questions, if I could, about Chairman Nunes' visit to the White House.
Instead, the White House continued to sidestep queries about its role in showing Nunes classified information that appears to have included transcripts of foreign officials discussing Trump's transition to the presidency, according to current and former US officials.
Intrigue surrounding the source has deepened amid reports that as many as three White House officials - including Ezra Cohen, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, Michael Ellis, a lawyer in the White House Counsel's Office, and top National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg - were involved in showing the documents to Mr. Nunes.
Initially, Nunes, a former Trump campaign advisor, claimed that it was "possible" the president's personal communications had been swept up by the National Security Agency, the byproduct of lawful surveillance targeting non-U.S. citizens.
That cloud of suspicion grew darker with the disclosure of previously undisclosed meetings between the President's son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, and a Russian banker with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"This is going to be more on the "trim and optimize" as opposed to 'dismantle, '" said L. Roger Mason, Jr., an executive with the nonprofit Noblis and a member of the Trump transition team that focused on the national intelligence directorate.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence, and to avoid angering Cohen-Watnick and Ellis.
"I don't know why he would brief the speaker, then come down here to brief us on something that we would've briefed him on", Spicer said.
Like on Monday night, Trump appears to have few - if any - concerns that presidential statements of any kind could taint the eventual results of one or both of the congressional probes. "We have called every member that has had a question or concern".