As I wrote in a previous article, Republican lawmakers are pushing to discover who gave the order to “unmask” members of the Trump team in the “incidentally” gathered information that was widely (and illegally) disseminated in an effort to wound Trump’s reputation before the election.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who saw the classified information, has confirmed that the documents contained “details about US persons associated with the incoming administration.” The documents contained “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value” and were “widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”
Fox News reported last Friday that a high-ranking senior intelligence official was responsible.
“We’ve learned that the surveillance that led to the unmasking of what started way before President Trump was even the GOP nominee,” reports Fox News’ Adam Housley. “The person who did the unmasking, I’m told, is very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world and is not in the FBI.”
“We’re told that the main issue here Is not only the unmasking of the names, but the spreading of names for political purposes that have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with hurting and embarrassing Trump and his team.”
Fox also cited sources suggesting that Nunes knew about the existence of the information in January – long before Trump’s March 4th wiretapping claim.
Nunes met with an unnamed source on Tuesday, March 21st to view the documents. There is much confusion surrounding the details of the meeting, which occured at night on White House grounds.
“Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” said a Nunes spokesman.
Nunes briefed Trump on the situation the following day, during which he suggested that the information may have been gathered via FISA warrants. Such warrants are classified, and many are now claiming that Nunes revealed classified information during a press release.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says Nunes could not have received the classified information from the White House: “I don’t know why he would come up to brief the president on something that we gave him.”
Nunes has promised never to reveal the name of his source, but The New York Times has blamed White House officials Michael Ellis and Ezra Cohen-Watnick.
The “obsessions with who talked to whom, and when, is not the answer,” said Spicer. “It should be the substance” of the documents.
Nunes is now facing criticism for not keeping this information secret, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked him to recuse himself from his committee’s investigation.
Some believe that Nunes was given access to the classified information to distract him from the committee’s investigation into the alleged Russia-Trump connection and to bolster Trump’s claims of having been spied on.
Nunes argues that he had a “duty” to tell the president and has apologized to members of the House Intelligence Committee for bypassing them.
Adam Schiff (D-CA), a fellow member of the House Intelligence Committee, believes the White House was trying to “launder” intel through Nunes. “Why all the cloak and dagger stuff?” he asks.
“The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House,” argues Schiff (D-CA). Last Thursday, Schiff accepted an invitation to view the documents.
We’d like to point out that Nunes is not law enforcement, and Trump is the victim here. This has nothing to do with any other possible ongoing investigation. Once this is publicized, we expect either the FBI or a special prosecutor will be assigned to investigate.