President Donald Trump expressed a sense of vindication Wednesday after House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said that Trump campaign associates may have been caught up in a surveillance net.
“I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Nunes, a California Republican, told reporters at the White House he viewed “intelligence reports” that had “nothing to do with” the Trump campaign or Russia.
But they did show intelligence agencies had collected information about the campaign. It “bothers me and should bother the president and his team,” Nunes said after briefing Trump about his concerns.
Nunes described the intelligence as part of incidental collection related to multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, but he said it appears to have been gathered legally.
Incidental collection under Section 702 generally involves information gathered about U.S. persons scooped up because of their interactions with people overseas who are the targets of warrants issued by judges on the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance court.
The reports he obtained came via individuals with the proper security clearances through “appropriate channels,” Nunes said. He also raised the possibility that Trump associates were “unmasked” in the reports unjustly.
Nunes briefed Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., about the information before meeting with Trump on Wednesday, though he indicated he had not yet briefed fellow California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Schiff said the panel has not been provided the surveillance intercepts Nunes discussed, so “it is impossible to evaluate the chairman’s claims. It certainly does not suggest — in any way — that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor.”
Schiff said Nunes’ actions today “throw into great doubt the ability of both the chairman and the committee” to conduct its investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the intelligence reports Nunes has viewed came from individuals inside the government who came forward after Monday’s Intelligence panel hearing with FBI Director James Comey.
“It certainly appears that classified information was released,” said Wyden, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Nunes said that the existence of the intelligence reports in question was not classified.
“Look, I am not — all I’m saying is there are intelligence reports. It appears like everything was gathered legally. The question is whether or not those reports were put together properly and minimization efforts were actually [used],” he said.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, was clear in saying he had not been briefed on anything like what Nunes revealed.
“As a matter of fact, I’m rushing back, going back to my office right now to figure out what the heck is going on,” Warner said as the Senate finished voting for the day.
Lindsey McPherson, Niels Lesniewski, Ryan Lucas and Rema Rahman contributed to this report.