I have said before that House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), is the reason why we need to have a bipartisan commission and/or special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. election as part of its information war against the U.S. This Trump transition team member just made my point today.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes revealed Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s personal communications may have been picked up by investigators through “incidental collection” pursuant to a legal FISA warrant investigation of foreign nationals.
Remember how Nunes was pushing the GOP conspiracy du jour during the House Intelligence Committee on Monday that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn may have been improperly “unmasked” by intelligence agencies through “incidental collection” pursuant to a legal FISA warrant investigation of foreign individuals and his identity leaked to the press?
Nunes just abused the power of his position — and may have violated the law if he disclosed classified information, which includes the existence of a FISA Court warrant — for a partisan political motive by suggesting, as the White House immediately latched onto after his disclosure, that the “incidental collection” information is the equivalent of “surveillance” of the Donald Trump campaign (it is not) to give the White House cover for Trump’s false tweets that President Obama “wire tapped” Trump Tower.
Nunes’ clear implication is that FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers were not fully forthcoming when they testified that there is no evidence to substantiate Trump’s false tweets that President Obama “wire tapped” Trump Tower.
Nunes’ intentionally vague statements today were intended to provide grist to the propagandists of the conservative media entertainment complex. He has called into question the credibility of his chairmanship and the House Intelligence Committee investigation.
Nunes should be removed as chair of the House Intelligence Committee and referred to the FBI for investigation if he leaked classified information, including the existence of a FISA Court warrant, for a partisan political motive. If so, he should be forced to resign from Congress.
The New York Times reports, Monitoring May Have ‘Incidentally’ Picked Up Trump Aides, House Member Says:
The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, suggested on Wednesday that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications of Trump transition team members.
A short time later, the White House appeared to latch on to Mr. Nunes’s statement as evidence that Mr. Trump was right when he claimed in a series of Twitter posts this month to have been “wiretapped” by the Obama administration during the campaign. “I think it’s startling information,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters.
But the intelligence collection described by Mr. Nunes, known as “incidental collection,” indicates that the targets of American intelligence gathering were foreign officials, not specific members of the Trump transition or Mr. Trump himself.
In fact, any American citizen who talks, messages or emails with a foreign official under surveillance would be picked up by intelligence agencies. This would include Obama administration officials and private citizens like journalists and business people.
It by no means indicates that Mr. Trump himself was under direct surveillance. James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., told the Intelligence Committee on Monday that the president was at no point the target of court-ordered surveillance during or after the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mr. Comey’s statement seemed to settle the matter for everyone outside the White House. But Mr. Nunes, who served on Mr. Trump’s transition team, appeared on Wednesday to reopen the question with his comments, which were often vague.
“On numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Mr. Nunes said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “Details about U.S. persons, details associated with the incoming administration — details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value — were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”
Mr. Nunes declined to say where he learned of the surveillance, but he said none of the information collected had anything to do with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I want to be clear: None of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of activities,” Mr. Nunes said.
Mr. Nunes also said he was not sure whether Mr. Trump’s communications were collected.
“When we talk about intelligence products here, we’ve got to be very careful,” Mr. Nunes said. “And what I know right now, it looks like incidental collection. We don’t know exactly how that was picked up. But we’re trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Mr. Spicer read Mr. Nunes’s statement during his news briefing Wednesday afternoon and said Mr. Nunes planned to come to the White House this afternoon to brief the president.
Hold on. Let’s assume for a moment, contrary to Nunes’ assertion that “none of the information collected had anything to do with the F.B.I.’s investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Russia,” that some of the information does, in fact, pertain to the ongoing investigations.
Nunes would be giving Team Trump — under investigation by the FBI — a heads up on what information the FBI has found so far and reported to the chair and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. He would be compromising that investigation by giving the suspects in that investigation access to classified information in a confidential investigation. Stop and think about the implications of this for a moment. It is a crime for which he could be prosecuted.
Intelligence agencies are permitted to record calls even if they involve American citizens.
Afterward, when the raw intelligence — in this case, a transcript — is turned into a finished report and distributed to other parts of the government, the name of any American picked up incidentally is normally masked. But names can be unmasked for counterintelligence or counterterrorism investigations, or if they are needed to understand the context of the intelligence or its importance.
Knowledgeable officials can also sometimes figure out from the context who the American is [which is what appears to have occurred in this case]. And some senior officials, such as the president or national security adviser, can ask to have the name unmasked.
Nunes tried to sound unduly alarmist in his comments reported in the Washington Post, House Intelligence chair says ‘it’s possible’ Trump’s communications were intercepted during transition:
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to personally brief President Trump about intelligence he says he has seen regarding surveillance of foreign nationals during the presidential transition.
“What I’ve read seems to me to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal. I don’t know that it’s right,” Nunes said to reporters outside the White House. “I don’t know that the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read.”
“The president needs to know these intelligence reports are out there,” Nunes added. “I think the president is concerned, and he should be.”
President Trump was asked if he felt vindicated after Nunes’s visit in his claims that he was wiretapped during the campaign at his Trump Tower headquarters by President Obama’s administration.
“I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do,” Trump said following Nunes’s visit. “I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. I somewhat do.”
Before heading to the White House, Nunes said he briefed House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on what he learned, and he also spoke with reporters.
Do you know who Trump transition team member Nunes did not brief? The ranking House Intelligence Committee member, Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Normal protocol for the House Intelligence Committee is for the chair and ranking member to appear together in any press conference to present the appearance of bipartisan cooperation. It is rare that the committee holds press conferences at all.
Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters that Trump was one of various members of the Trump team whose communications probably were intercepted through “incidental collection,” or surveillance of the communications of foreign nationals who may be in contact with or talking about U.S. citizens.
U.S. intelligence agencies targeting foreign nationals regularly pick up communications to, from or about U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents as well as U.S. corporations and organizations, a category referred to as incidental collection.
Nunes said the situation will be clarified after he receives a full list of American citizens who were “unmasked” during the surveillance. He said he expects to receive such information by Friday from the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA.
So the dog and pony show Nunes put on today could have waited until after he had reviewed all of the information to be provided to his committee by the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA. So why did he choose today for his dog and pony show?
Outside of the White House on Wednesday, Nunes confirmed his opinion that Trump was not wiretapped in the sense the president meant with his March 4 tweet.
But he did suggest Trump could have been caught up in “incidental collection” — or legal surveillance of the communications of foreign nationals who may be in contact with U.S. citizens. He signaled that the intelligence community may have, in his mind, included certain names in their reports that did not belong there.
“The reason that we do this and that we have all these procedures in place is to protect American citizens” Nunes said, adding that there is a “certain threshold met to make it into intelligence products.”
“Maybe they didn’t meet the minimum qualifications. There are things to me that don’t reach the level of intelligence value. You have to ask yourself why did they end up in intelligence reports.”
The ranking House Intelligence Committee member, Adam Schiff (D-CA), has responded to the dog and pony show Nunes put on today. Schiff: I Have ‘Grave Concerns’ About Nunes Briefing Trump On Intel Collection:
The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said late Wednesday afternoon that committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) broke with protocol by telling both the press and President Donald Trump that some of the Trump team’s communications may have been caught up in “incidental” surveillance during the election.
In a sharply worded statement, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said it was a “profound irregularity” for Nunes to bring these claims to Trump in the middle of an ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, which includes a probe into ties between Trump allies and Russian officials.
Schiff said he and the other members of the committee were not aware of these reports until Nunes surfaced them today, and that he expressed his “grave concerns” to Nunes that his actions made it difficult to conduct “a credible investigation.”
Schiff’s full statement: