Report: Two White House Officials Gave Devin Nunes “Incidental” Surveillance Info

One of the officials was identified as a former aide to Michael Flynn.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/ZUMA

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Two White House officials assisted in providing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, with the information he used to claim that members of Donald Trump’s transition team were “incidentally” swept up in foreign intelligence collection efforts, the New York Times reports. The paper identified the officials as National Security Council intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former aide to Michael Flynn, and Michael Ellis, who worked for Nunes before taking a job in the White House counsel’s office.

The effort to provide Nunes with the incidental collection info led to a bizarre and dramatic series of events last week. After viewing the intelligence reports on the White House grounds, Nunes, whose committee is probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, staged a dramatic press conference the next morning and then rushed to the White House to brief the president.

The bombshell report comes as Nunes has refused to disclose the source of the intelligence reports, even to members of his own committee, and mounting calls for him to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, or even step down as the committee’s chair. The controversy has brought the Russia investigation in the House to a halt.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly batted away questions regarding the Times report Thursday, claiming he was “not at liberty” to discuss it.

“I never said I would provide you answers,” he said at one point. “I said I would look into it.”

Earlier this month, the president ignited a firestorm of controversy when he accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of wiretapping him. Trump—under fire for his baseless allegation—claimed that he felt “somewhat” vindicated by the information that Nunes provided him with (even though it in no way backed up his wiretapping claim).

Republican lawmakers, including Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, have called on Nunes to provide additional information about his White House meeting or risk losing the “ability to lead” the ongoing probe.

This is a breaking news post. We will update when more information becomes available.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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