Facing mounting criticism Thursday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee defended his decision to inform President Trump about the U.S. intelligence community’s incidental collection of communications involving members of the president’s transition group, saying Trump “needed to understand what I saw.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he made “a judgment call” to inform the White House and reporters about the existence of dozens of intelligence reports in which the communications of an undisclosed number of transition members — and possibly Trump himself — were swept up by intelligence officials following the November election.
“The president did not invite me over,” Nunes said, dismissing assertions that he was offering the president cover in the face of ongoing inquiries into Russia’s possible ties to Trump associates. “I felt he needed to understand what I saw,” the chairman said.
Nunes’ disclosure, however, was made without conferring with other members of the committee or ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who raised questions that the chairman’s unilateral action undermined the ongoing committee investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Schiff has since indicated that Nunes’ disclosures now argue for the appointment of an independent commission to investigate Russia’s possible ties to Trump associates and whether there was any collusion between the two sides in advance of the election. That inquiry, Schiff suggested late Wednesday, appears to indicate that there is more than circumstantial evidence to indicate there was such coordination.
Democrats and some Republican lawmakers, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, also expressed alarm Thursday that Nunes’ actions may have undermined the credibility of the House Intelligence panel to proceed with its inquiry. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the intelligence committee, said Thursday that Nunes apologized to the panel during a closed meeting.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Kevin Johnson