WASHINGTON — Facing mounting criticism Thursday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee defended his decision to inform President Trump about the U.S. intelligence community’s incidental collection of communications involving members of the president’s transition group, saying Trump “needed to understand what I saw.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he made “a judgment call” to inform the White House and reporters about the existence of dozens of intelligence reports in which the communications of an undisclosed number of transition members — and possibly Trump himself — were swept up by intelligence officials following the November election.
“The president did not invite me over,” Nunes said, dismissing assertions that he was offering the president cover in the face of ongoing inquiries into Russia’s possible ties to Trump associates. “I felt he needed to understand what I saw,” the chairman said.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday that Nunes’ meeting with the president Wednesday was unplanned and did not conflict with the existing Russia investigations because the chairman’s information had “nothing to do with Russia.”
“The substance of what he shared should be troubling to everybody,” Spicer said.
Nunes’ disclosure, however, was made without conferring with other members of the committee or ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who raised questions that the chairman’s unilateral action undermined the ongoing committee investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.