Republican Nunes apologizes over handling
of Trump surveillance claim
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[March 24, 2017]
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican head
of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee apologized
on Thursday for the way he handled sensitive allegations about U.S. spy
agency surveillance of President Donald Trump's team.
Representative Devin Nunes was criticized by colleagues on Wednesday for
calling a news conference to announce that the communications of members
of the team that ran Trump's transition to the presidency were swept up
in incidental surveillance targeting foreigners.
Democrats were upset that Nunes made the comments to the media and then
briefed Trump in the White House without informing them. They questioned
whether the intelligence panel could run a credible investigation.
A Republican intelligence committee aide said on Thursday that Nunes had
apologized to Democrats on the panel.
"Yes, he apologized to the minority on the committee today for going
public and to the (White House) with his announcement yesterday before
sharing the information with the minority. He pledged to work with them
on this issue and share information with them about it," the aide told
The panel is conducting one of the main congressional investigations
over allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia sought to
influence the 2016 presidential election, including claims of ties
between Trump's team and Moscow. Russia denies the allegations.
Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the panel, said Nunes had
apologized "in a generic way."
Asked if Nunes knew whether Trump's associates were party to these
communications or if they could have been communications between two
foreigners talking about Trump's associates, Nunes' spokesman said:
"He (Nunes) said he’ll have to get all the documents he requested from
the IC (intelligence community) about this before he knows for sure."
At a hearing of the committee on Monday, FBI director James Comey
confirmed the existence of the investigation for the first time.
The top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday described Nunes
as "a willing stooge" of Trump who had "committed a stunt at the White
House" with his comments.
"The necessity of an independent investigation is increasingly being
recognized," she said, referring to the probe involving Russia.
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House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin
Nunes speaks to the media about President Trump's allegation that
his campaign was the target of wiretaps. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
The White House had on Wednesday seized on Nunes' remarks, which had
cited anonymous sources, to bolster Trump's unproven assertion on
Twitter this month that President Barack Obama wiretapped his
election campaign headquarters in Manhattan's Trump Tower.
Nunes himself has said that the information he had did not support
Trump's allegation. He also said that none of the surveillance he
knew about was related to Russia.
Democrats said Nunes may have revealed classified information with
his comments to reporters but the congressman's spokesman said that
he did not.
Nunes, who was a member of Trump's transition team, seemed contrite
on Thursday for the timing and manner of his statement.
"There was a lot going on yesterday and it was a judgment call on my
part. At the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decisions
and sometimes you make the wrong ones but you've got to stick by the
decisions you make," he told reporters after the intelligence
committee's regular classified meeting.
Another Democrat on the committee, Representative Eric Swalwell,
told MSNBC that its members had not yet seen the material referred
to by Nunes.
The House committee is investigating whether Russia hacked emails of
senior Democrats and released embarrassing information to hurt the
campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, interfering in the
election to benefit Trump.
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, David Alexander, Mark
Hosenball and Jonathan Landay; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by
Yara Bayoumy, Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)
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