During his second press conference of the day, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said that he has seen evidence that shows people connected with the Donald Trump Transition team after the election were surveilled by the U.S. intelligence community. However, he insisted that President Barack Obama did not wiretap Trump, as President Trump claimed on Twitter. He then went on CNN, where he said that Trump “could have been” picked up “incidentally” by surveillance.
When a reporter asked Nunes if Obama tapped Trump’s phones as the president claims, Nunes interrupted. “That did not happen. I’ve said this for many, many weeks,” Nunes said, adding, “That never happened. That never happened.”
But Nunes said during both press conferences on March 22 that he has seen evidence that shows the Trump transition team was monitored. The California Congressman told the media during the first press conference that the surveillance looks legal thanks to “incidental collection” and because it wasn’t connected to the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s activities during the presidential election.
“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” Nunes said, reports Politico. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.”
Nunes said the surveillance was “incidental collection,” meaning that the communication was picked up during surveillance of a foreign target who was communicating with a person inside the U.S. Usually, these people would not be identified in intelligence reports, but Nunes said there were members of the Trump transitional team beyond former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn were “unmasked” in the reports.
“I’m actually alarmed by it,” Nunes said during the first press conference.
Nunes then went to the White House to provide Trump personally with an update on the investigation. He spoke with reporters again, saying “I think the President is concerned and he should be.” Trump himself said he feels “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’ findings.
Although Nunes discussed his new findings with the President, he did not discuss them with his Democratic colleague on the House Intelligence Committee, Ranking Member Adam Schiff, a spokesman confirmed to the Washington Post.
Schiff issued a statement, writing that Nunes can’t run a credible investigation this way. He then held a press conference, in which he said that Nunes’ actions show that there should be an independent commission investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Just before Schiff’s press conference, Nunes discussed his new information with Jake Tapper on CNN.
Nunes’ press conferences came just after Monday’s hearing before the committee, in which both FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers said they saw no evidence that Trump was ever wiretapped by the Obama administration. However, Comey did confirm that the FBI is investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
As CNN notes, Nunes is leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. After Trump accused Obama of wiretapping, the White House then asked Congress to “exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.” During this investigation, Republicans have focused on the leak of information to the press, as made clear during the Comey hearing.
“Let me be clear, I’ve been saying this for several weeks. We know there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower,” Nunes said in his opening statement on Monday. “However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President’s Trump and his associates. Number three, who has leak classified information? Numerous current and former officials have leak purportedly classified information in connection to these questions. We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice.”
Comey also confirmed during the hearing that no president could personally order a wiretap. However, he could not publicly confirm or deny that the FBI or Justice Department made a request to a court to get a wiretap and then was turned down.
“I said we have no information that supports” Trump’s wiretap claims, Comey said.