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.
“There’s a lot of questions that I think his statement raises, and that I hope we can get to the bottom of,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also said.
He said the NSA had been “very helpful” during the investigation, however, he was unsure if “the FBI is going to comply.”
Nunes said the surveillance collection was “legally collected foreign intelligence under FISA incidental collection.” But Nunes said he was “alarmed” the intelligence “ended up in reporting channels and was widely disseminated.”
It was previously reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was “unmasked” in this way, however, Nunes said “additional names” were unmasked as well.
He said he didn’t know what foreign intelligence value the surveillance had “and why people would need to know that about President-elect Trump and his transition team.” Nunes did not identify which foreign targets were under surveillance.
Asked if he thought Trump was spied on, Nunes replied: “I’m not gonna get into legal definitions here, but clearly I have a concern.”