© Reuters. The Chairman of the House Standing Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-CA), speaks to the media about President Donald Trump‘s accusation that his campaign was the target of wiretapping.
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican head of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Thursday apologized for the way it handled sensitive allegations about the US spy agency’s surveillance of President Donald Trump’s team.
Rep. Devin Nunes was criticized by colleagues Wednesday for calling a press conference to announce that communications from members of the team that led Trump’s transition to the presidency were dragged down by incidental surveillance targeting foreigners.
Democrats were upset that Nunes made the comments to the media and later briefed Trump at the White House without informing them. They questioned whether the intelligence panel could conduct a credible investigation.
An aide to the Republican intelligence committee said Thursday that Nunes had apologized to Democrats on the panel.
“Yes, today he apologized to the minority on the committee for making it public and to the (White House) with his announcement yesterday before sharing the information with the minority. He promised to work with them on this issue and share information with them. about it. “the aide told Reuters.
The panel is conducting one of the major Congressional investigations into allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election, including claims of ties between the Trump team and Moscow. Russia denies the accusations.
Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the panel, said Nunes had apologized “in a generic way.”
When asked if Nunes knew if Trump associates were part of these communications or if they could have been communications between two foreigners talking about Trump associates, Nunes’ spokesperson said:
“He (Nunes) said that he will have to obtain all the documents that he requested from the IC (intelligence community) on this before being sure.”
At a committee hearing on Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of the investigation for the first time.
“The need for an independent investigation is increasingly recognized,” he said, referring to the investigation involving Russia.
On Wednesday, the White House took advantage of Nunes’s comments, which anonymous sources had cited, to reinforce Trump’s unproven claim on Twitter this month that President Barack Obama overheard his election campaign headquarters in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.
Nunes himself has said that the information he had did not support Trump’s accusation. He also said that none of the surveillance activities he was aware of was related to Russia.
Democrats said Nunes may have disclosed classified information with his comments to reporters, but the congressman’s spokesman said he did not.
Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, appeared regretful Thursday for the timing and manner of his statement.
“A lot happened yesterday and it was a decision on my part. At the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decisions and sometimes you make the wrong ones, but you have to stick to the decisions you make,” he told reporters after the meeting. regular classified intelligence committee.
Another Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eric Swalwell, told MSNBC that his members had not yet seen the material Nunes is referring to.
The House committee is investigating whether Russia hacked into the emails of senior Democrats and released embarrassing information to damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, interfering in the election for Trump’s benefit.