The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday said that he regretted briefing the White House about the alleged “incidental collection” of Trump team communications before members of his own committee.
“At the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you don’t,” said Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose decision to bolt to the White House with leaked information—during a criminal investigation into the sitting president and his associates’ ties to Russia—has eroded his committee’s credibility to conduct its own investigation.
Nunes, a member of the Trump transition team, claimed Wednesday that he received leaked documents proving the communications of Trump associates had been incidentally collected by U.S. intelligence services. That does not exactly help President Trump’s case. If true, it indicates that his transition team was in contact with foreigners whose communications were being lawfully targeted.
Questions are also being raised about whether Nunes may have leaked classified information by disclosing the incidental collection of Trump team communications, presumably swept up during the surveillance of foreigners authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A Nunes spokesman told the Daily Dot that he “did not divulge classified details in his remarks.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters on Wednesday that Nunes’s statements “would appear to be revealing classified information and that obviously would be a very serious concern.”
Doubt and suspicion loomed over the committee on Thursday, with its ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), referring to Nunes as a “surrogate of the White House.”
“It was my hope that our investigation could be conducted properly,” Schiff said at a news conference. “It’s still my hope that this investigation should be conducted properly, but unfortunately the actions of the chair throw that very much in doubt.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Nunes was “deeply compromised” and incapable of leading an honest investigation.
On NBC’s Today show, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he hadn’t “seen anything like” the actions taken by Nunes, which he called “very disturbing.” McCain praised the Senate Intelligence Committee’s working relationship, but the day before told Greta Van Susteren on MSNBC that Congress no longer has the credibility to investigate the White House by itself. “I don’t say that lightly,” he said.