White House de­fends law­maker’s de­ci­sion to brief Trump on in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts,

‘Judg­ment call,’ Nunes says of his de­brief to Trump.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Julie Pace

The White House on Thurs­day de­fended the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee chair­man’s ex­tra­or­di­nary de­ci­sion to openly dis­cuss and brief Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on typ­i­cally se­cret in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts, even as Rep. Devin Nunes pri­vately apol­o­gized to his con­gres­sional col­leagues.

The de­ci­sion to dis­close the in­for­ma­tion be­fore talk­ing to com­mit­tee mem­bers out­raged Democrats and raised ques­tions about the in­de­pen­dence of the panel’s probe of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

“It was a judg­ment call on my part,” Nunes told re­porters shortly af­ter the closed­door com­mit­tee meet­ing. “Some­times you make the right de­ci­sion, some­times you make the wrong de­ci­sion.”

Frus­trated Democrats ques­tioned whether Nunes, who served on Trump’s tran­si­tion team, was work­ing in co­or­di­na­tion with the White House, a charge the White House dis­puted.

Still, White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed, in­ac­cu­rately, that Nunes was “vin­di­cat­ing” the pres­i­dent’s un­proven asser­tion that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama wire­tapped his New York sky­scraper dur­ing the elec­tion. Nunes specif­i­cally stated that the new in­for­ma­tion he re­ceived did not sup­port the pres­i­dent’s ex­plo­sive al­le­ga­tions.

Nunes told re­porters he had seen new in­for­ma­tion show­ing that the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Trump tran­si­tion of­fi­cials were scooped up through mon­i­tor­ing of other tar­gets and im­prop­erly spread through in­tel­li­gence agen­cies dur­ing the fi­nal days of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. But he shot down Trump’s claims about a wire­tap at Trump Tower specif­i­cally or­dered by his pre­de­ces­sor.

Still, Repub­li­can groups moved quickly to raise money off Nunes’ rev­e­la­tions. The Na­tional Repub­li­can Cam­paign Com­mit­tee blasted out an email with the sub­ject “Con­firmed: Obama spied on Trump.” The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee made a pitch with the sub­ject line “Vin­di­cated” and went on to say, “Pres­i­dent Trump has fought back and been vin­di­cated time and time again.”

On Wed­nes­day, Nunes spoke to re­porters and the pres­i­dent with­out shar­ing the new in­for­ma­tion with Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Demo­crat. On Thurs­day morn­ing, Nunes apol­o­gized to Schiff and other Democrats dur­ing a 20-minute meet­ing on Capi­tol Hill.

“It was a somber dis­cus­sion,” said Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro, D-Texas, a com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter his apol­ogy, Nunes ducked ques­tions about whether he was par­rot­ing in­for­ma­tion given to him by the White House, say­ing only that he was “not go­ing to ever re­veal sources.”

It’s com­mon for Amer­i­cans to get caught up in U.S. sur­veil­lance of for­eign­ers, such as for­eign diplo­mats in the U.S. talk­ing to an Amer­i­can. Typ­i­cally, the Amer­i­can’s name would not be re­vealed in a re­port about the in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Nunes’ of­fice dis­puted that he had re­leased clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, say­ing the chair­man “did not iden­tify the tar­gets of the sur­veil­lance and only spoke in gen­eral terms about the con­tent.”

Asked whether he be­lieved the tran­si­tion team had been spied on, Nunes said, “It all de­pends on one’s def­i­ni­tion of spy­ing.”

J. SCOTT AP­PLE­WHITE / AP

House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., apol­o­gized to his Democratic col­leagues on Thurs­day, yet pub­licly de­fended his de­ci­sion to brief Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

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