The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, said in an extraordinary public disclosure yesterday about often-secret information (March 22nd) that private communications of then President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team may have been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials as they monitored other targets, and claimed the information was improperly distributed throughout intelligence agencies.
Nunes wouldn't say where he got the information and didn't share it with the intelligence committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, but did brief Trump at the White House. He said the surveillance was conducted legally and didn't appear to be related to the current FBI investigation into Trump associates contacts with Russia. Nunes said nothing he'd seen had led him to change his previous statements that Trump's allegations about former President Barack Obama wiretapping him at Trump Tower were false. However, Trump said later that he felt, quote, "somewhat" vindicated by Nunes' statements, saying, "I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found." FBI Director James Comey on Monday rejected Trump's claims about Obama having him wiretapped.
Nunes' statement was denounced by Democrats, and Schiff said his actions showed why an independent probe of Trump campaign links to Russia is needed, stating, "a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way." Republican Senator John McCain agreed, saying in an MSNBC interview, "This is a bizarre situation. I'm calling for a select committee because I think this back-and-forth shows that Congress no longer has the credibility handle this alone."
Schiff also claimed in a later TV interview that he'd now seen, quote, "more than circumstantial evidence" that Trump associates colluded with Russia in trying to influence the presidential election. Perhaps along the same lines, CNN reported that the FBI has information that indicates Trump associates communicated with suspected Russian operatives during the presidential campaign, to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton, citing U.S. officials. The FBI is reviewing the information, however officials cautioned that it's not conclusive and the investigation is ongoing.