GOP Rep Nunes: I Went to WH Grounds To View ‘Executive Branch’ Info That Hasn’t Been Released to Congress

On Monday’s broadcast of CNN’s “Situation Room,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) defended his visit to White House grounds the day before he revealed information on the incidental collection of communications about people involved in the Trump transition team, saying that such a practice is common, and that he had to visit WH grounds because “The Congress has not been given this information, these documents. and that’s the problem. So because the — because this is executive branch, it was distributed widely through the executive branch.”

Nunes said, “[I]t’s actually pretty common. Probably at least once a week, if not more than that, we have to go to the executive branch in order to read classified intelligence. So, that could be the White House grounds, it could be the White House, it could be the Pentagon, it could be CIA. There’s a number of places we go.”

He added, “[T]his is something I had been working on for a very long time. I was concerned about Americans’ identities being either not masked properly or, in fact, being unmasked in intelligence reports. this actually goes back to before Mr. Trump’s, — President Trump’s famous tweet, as you know, that he talked about putting — whether or not he was wiretapped at Trump Tower.”

Nunes further stated that he went to the WH grounds rather than read the information on Capitol Hill because “The Congress has not been given this information, these documents. and that’s the problem. So because the — because this is executive branch, it was distributed widely through the executive branch. This was from November, December, and January, and these were reports, just let me reiterate, this had nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do with the Russian investigation. There’s no way for the folks that I had been working with to actually, to bring this forward to light. There was no way I could view that, because they couldn’t get it to the House Intelligence Committee. Now, we had requested, on March 15, we sent a letter over to the appropriate intelligence agencies, asking that they provide us, for all the Americans’ names that were unmasked in November, December, and January, actually going back to June.”

Nunes declined to say where the information came from and who cleared him for admission, stating he wouldn’t get into “sources and methods.” He did say that the release of the information wasn’t coordinated with the White House.

When asked why he felt the need to brief the White House, Nunes said he didn’t plan to go to the White House the day after reading the information, but that after seeing the information he read wasn’t about Russia, but was about individuals being unmasked in intelligence reports, he decided the president needed to know the information.

Nunes was asked whether the president’s name came up in the reports he read. He answered that there was “additional unmasking done.” Nunes added that there was information that appeared to be collected legally on President Trump and his transition team. Nunes declined to say whether or not Trump’s name came up.

He further stated that what he saw was all from after the election, during the transition period and not from the campaign.

Nunes did say that he couldn’t determine if there were any crimes committed in the information he saw, but that if former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s name was picked up incidentally, then his name was illegally leaked.

When asked if he saw the actual names of the transition members who were unmasked, Nunes responded that “Yeah. It was pretty clear who they were talking about.” When anchor Wolf Blitzer asked if he actually saw names, or deduced the names from what he read, Nunes stated that they were mostly masked, but that there was “additional unmasking.” He further stated such unmasking was certainly inappropriate, but declined to say if it was illegal.

He also declined to say whether the calls that individuals on the transition team were unmasked by involved foreign governments or discussions by foreign governments about calls they had with Trump officials.

Nunes concluded that he did not believe President Trump’s tweets that President Obama ordered the wiretap of Trump Tower, and did not believe those tweets were inaccurate.

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett