On Wednesday, the chairman of the House panel, which is currently investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election, briefed president Donald Trump. With this unexpected move, he informed the president about the surveillance of his transition team. According to Devin Nunes, he has sources that told him about the United States intelligence community’s efforts to gather information on Trump’s team members. After they managed to do this, they reportedly spread what they got internally.
Support for the White House
The White House and Donald Trump’s allies saw Nunes’ briefing as a proof that what the president claimed is indeed true. Trump claimed, in a series of tweets, the former president Barack Obama wiretapped his New York office during the presidential campaign. However, Nunes stated that the information he got does not specifically prove this. Democrats were not happy at all with the chairman’s claim. Rep. Adam Schiff of California, for example, who is the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, stated that he doubts Nunes’ claims. Moreover, he attacked the chairman for not firstly sharing this information he supposedly has.
Schiff also said that what Nunes did is not right because the Intelligence Committee is currently undergoing an investigation. This investigation concerns Russia’s interference in the United States presidential election. And some of Trump’s team members are still believed to have had connections with Russian players. Schiff also expressed his doubt that the chairman and the committee are able to conduct this investigation the way it should be.
At a news conference earlier in the day, Nunes explained that the surveillance of Trump’s team members was done through “incidental collection”. According to him, this happens when an American citizen communicated with someone who is a foreign target of United States surveillance. It is completely legal and it happened many times. However, when something like this happens, the identities of the U.S. citizens must be hidden at all costs.
Now, according to Nunes, his source showed him proof that the identities of Trump’s team members have been revealed. He offered the example of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. People discovered that he had connections with Russia’s ambassador through the press. The problem is that his name should not have leaked to the press. This was the result of “incidental collection” which was not correctly done. He added that he is currently trying to get more information from the CIA, FBI, and NSA. He thinks that what happened to Flynn might have been specifically done by someone, for political reasons. According to him, the files he saw clearly showed that Trump’s team and possibly him, were surveilled. There is a lot of information on them in there.
Meanwhile, president Donald Trump said at the White House that he now feels somewhat “vindicated”. His son, Donald Jr., also posted a message on Instagram in which he talks about Nunes’ claims. Press Secretary Sean Spicer also read Nunes’ statement at the White House and Trump’s team members collectively agreed to what he said. It remains to be seen what is going to happen now, after this revelation.
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