Trump recycles campaign fodder to distract from Russian Federation

Thirty-year-old Cohen-Watnick has already been the subject of some controversy within the White House.

The House investigation has been on life support ever since Nunes took a clandestine trip two weeks ago to the White House to review evidence he said shows top aides to President Donald Trump were picked up in intelligence collection.

Two White House officials played a role in providing House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes with documents showing President Donald Trump and his associates were swept up in surveillance by US intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported on Thursday. Intelligence agencies routinely monitor the communications of foreign officials living in the US, though the identities of Americans swept up in that collection is supposed to be protected.

And Spicer last week suggested strongly that he doubted it was the White House that provided the information.

Yet even before Thursday, the view among Democrats and even some Republicans was that Nunes was given access to the intelligence reports to divert attention from the investigations into Russian meddling, and to bolster Trump's debunked claims of having been wiretapped.

Career national security professionals, for their part, fear for the credibility of the National Security Council in light of the revelations that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the NSC, and Michael Ellis, a former Nunes aide working for the White House Counsel's Office, fed Nunes information in an apparent bid to sidetrack the ongoing investigation.

The congressman has refused to identify his sources, saying he needed to protect them so others would feel safe coming to the committee with sensitive information.

Spicer would not confirm, however, that the information that would be shared was what Nunes was privy to last week.

A senior White House official said late Friday that Schiff met with Trump at the White House, but the lawmaker made no reference to meeting the president in his remarks, instead reserving his remarks to his review of the documents.

This struck reporters as odd - that Nunes would go to be briefed at the office building that houses most of the White House staff, and then return to the White House to brief the president on the material he had seen at the White House complex.

A congressional aide said Schiff did not receive the White House letter until after Spicer announced it from the White House briefing room.

The White House has called for investigations into the disclosure of multiple intercepted conversations that Flynn had with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before the inauguration. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate intel committee, said that the situation surrounding Nunes get more "bizarre" every day.

Flynn's attorney said Thursday that the retired general is in discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees on receiving immunity from "unfair prosecution" in exchange for answering questions.

President Donald Trump says his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, is right to ask for immunity in exchange for talking about Russian Federation.

The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence and to avoid angering Cohen-Watnick and Ellis.

Schiff said he would travel to the White House to review the documents later Friday, but cautioned that serious questions remain about the degree to which the White House allowed political concerns to dictate the distribution of intelligence reports. He's become a controversial figure in intelligence circles, but Trump chose to keep him on over the objections of the CIA and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, according to the officials. House Speaker Paul Ryan, in an interview with "CBS This Morning" that aired Thursday, said Nunes told him a "whistleblower-type person" provided the information. These documents, the White House said were deemed "necessary to determine whether information collected on US persons was mishandled and leaked". On Thursday, Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said that the chairman "will not confirm or deny speculation about his source's identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources".

  • Leroy Wright