Counter-intelligence monitoring of Russian activity might have inadvertently gathered information involving Donald Trump himself, according to the GOP Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Correction: The original headline has been changed from GOP Senator to GOP Intel Chair to accurately reflect Rep. Nunes’ role.
“It’s very possible” Donald Trump himself might be personally involved as part of the “incidental intelligence” gathered during United States’ government monitoring of the communications of Russian nationals located here. Incidental intelligence is what the intelligence community (IC) calls information involving or about people who were not specifically targeted by intelligence or counterintelligence investigations.
This bombshell revelation came when the Chair, GOP Representative Devin Nunes, and Ranking Member, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence met with the press to discuss their investigation into Trump’s allegation that now-former President Barack Obama wire-tapped Trump’s phones during the presidential campaign.
Watch and listen to this exchange between NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Katie Hunt and Nunes:
Hunt: “Do you have any reason to believe that the President himself or anyone working for him in the White House would be one of these names that may have been swept up in something that could then have ultimately been leaked, like what happened to Michael Flynn?”
Nunes: “Well, I think it’s very possible. But, like I said, we should know that by Friday.”
Hunt: “Do you think the President himself might be one of those people that was swept up in this?”
Nunes: “It’s possible. I mean look…”
As you can see from the clip, the journalist appears taken aback by Nunes’ comment that Trump might be directly involved and asks the question again, in reply to which Nunes’ responds with the same answer.
In early March, Trump tweeted an unprecedented accusation against Obama:
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
Since that time, the White House has gone back and forth between standing by the exact contents of the tweet and backing off the assertion of wire-tapping but standing by allegations of surveillance.
As part of its continuing investigations, the House Intelligence Committee has written a letter to NSA Director Michael Rogers, FBI Director James Comey, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo requesting the names of “unmasked” United States persons (USPs) “whose identities were disseminated in response to requests from IC agencies, law enforcement, or senior Executive Branch officials between June 2016 and January 2017, and that relate to Presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton and their associates in 2016”:
Letter from Nunes/Schiff to Pompeo, Rogers, Comey on potential 12333 violations. pic.twitter.com/jAQ6802D5y
— Katie Bo Williams (@KatieBoWill) March 15, 2017
The IC is responsible for producing those names to the Committee by Friday, March 17th.
In response to a question about evidence supporting Trump’s claims about wire-tapping that initiated the investigation, Nunes answered, “Evidence still remains the same. We don’t have any evidence that took place.”
His colleague Schiff elaborated:
“To date, I see no evidence that supports the claim President Trump made…It deeply concerns me that the President would make such an accusation without basis…You can’t level an explanation of that type without either retracting it or explaining just why it was done…From a national security perspective, there is great concern if a president is willing to state things like that without any basis. The country needs to be able to rely on him.”
By impulsively lashing out, attacking, and blaming others, Trump may have inadvertently shined the spotlight on his own actions, including the possibility of personal involvement in communications between his associates and Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.