Members of the intelligence community “incidentally collected” communications from the Trump transition team during legal surveillance operations of foreign targets, a top Republican lawmaker said Wednesday afternoon.
House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said this produced “dozens” of reports which eventually unmasked several individuals’ identities and were “widely disseminated.”
He said none of the reports he had read mentioned Russia or Russians and he was unsure whether the surveillance occurred at Trump Tower — as President Trump has suggested. Nunes also was unsure if then President-elect Trump was captured by the surveillance, which occurred in November, December and January.
“I recently confirmed on numerous occasions the intelligence community incidentally collected intelligence,” Nunes said.
Democrats quickly criticized him for his comments.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement:
“This afternoon, Chairman Devin Nunes announced he had some form of intercepts revealing that lawfully gathered intelligence on foreign officials included information on U.S. Persons, potentially including those associated with President Trump or the President himself. If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been. … The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.”
The revelations could at least partially back up some allegations made by Trump earlier this month, when he tweeted that former President Barack Obama had “wiretapped” him, though top lawmakers have sharply disputed those claims. FBI Director James Comey also testified earlier this week he had no evidence to support the claims.
Nunes said he told House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier Wednesday about his findings. He later said he briefed Trump, calling some of the collection “inappropriate.”
Trump commented briefly afterward, saying he felt “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ comments.