Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is under fire for telling the media and the President that the intelligence community had incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition on several occasions.
But why is this such a big deal?
Nunes shared information with the White House and the press before his own committee, and, as someone who has been railing against leaks, provided both with information without revealing the sources.
On Wednesday, as Nunes was telling the media about the new revelations, he mentioned that he had already briefed the House Speaker, and was soon heading to the White House. But there was one group noticeably absent: his own committee members.
When asked when he would tell his ranking committee member, Rep. Adam Schiff, Nunes did not respond directly, only saying he would brief Schiff at “some point.”
Sen. John McCain, who has been in the Senate for thirty years, said he had never seen a committee chair bypass its members for the press and the White House.
“Intelligence committees and armed services committees always work in a bipartisan fashion,” Sen. John McCain said on the Today Show Thursday
“I have not seen anything like that,” McCain said on the Today Show Thursday. “It’s very disturbing.”
Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic Congressman who was chairman of the House Intelligence committee from 1985 to 1987, said that during his tenure, the CIA director would frequently come to him with information on the condition that he not share it with the committee members, and he refused.
“I told him that anything that came to me had to be shared with all members of the committee,” Hamilton said.
One Democratic committee member did say on CNN that Nunes ultimately apologized to members of the committee. But as of Thursday afternoon, both Schiff and another Democratic committee member, Rep. Eric Swalwell, said Nunes had not yet briefed them about the information.
“We still haven’t seen it today, neither Democrats nor Republicans,” Schiff said on The View.
Schiff said he was “blindsided,” and indicated Nunes was colluding with the White House — further cementing the partisan divisions McCain said shouldn’t exist on these committees.
“We need to do a real investigation of this and we can’t have our chair acting as a surrogate for the administration,” he said on The View. “He has to have the surrogate role or the chairman role but he can’t do both.”
But Nunes is also facing criticism for publicizing the information in the first place
“It is highly unusual for the intelligence committee chairman to talk about intelligence information they receive,” said Hamilton.
Nunes’ break from standard operating procedures, however, are reinforced by the fact that he has been adamant of his intolerance for leaks.
“We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice,” Nunes said on Monday at the opening of FBI Diretor James Comey’s testimony before congress.
A month earlier, an interview with CBS News, he said those leaking the information were still connected to the Obama Administration.
“We do have people in the last Administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press. And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken,” he told John Dickerson.
He was sounding a different tune on Wednesday.
“This was information that was brought to me, that I thought the President needed to know, about incidental collection, where the President himself and others in the Trump transition team were clearly put into intelligence reports,” Nunes said at a briefing in the Rose Garden.”
Although he said he was given this information legally, he declined to say where or when he got it.