House intelligence chairman and Tulare Republican Devin Nunes met on the White House grounds with the source of the claim that communications involving President Donald Trump’s associates were caught up in “incidental” surveillance, the congressman’s spokesman said Monday.
That revelation prompted the top Democrat on the committee to call on Nunes to recuse himself from the committee’s Russia probe.
Rep. Adam Schiff said Nunes’ connections to the White House have raised insurmountable public doubts about whether the committee could credibly investigate the president’s campaign associates.
“I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman,” Schiff said in a statement Monday.
Nunes confirmed Monday that he met with the source at the White House complex, but he denied coordinating with the president's aides.
The meeting occurred before Nunes disclosed at a news conference that U.S. spy agencies may have inadvertently captured Trump and his associates in routine targeting of foreigners’ communications.
“Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said.
Previously, Nunes would not say where he met his secret source. He has still not revealed who that source is.
Nunes’ connection to the White House has raised concerns that his committee’s investigation is not a bipartisan, independent probe. He was a member of Trump’s transition team, as well.
Schiff of Los Angeles, said Nunes’ meeting with his source appeared to have been “a dead-of-night excursion.”
In his statement late Monday urging Nunes to step aside, Schiff added that there was no “legitimate justification” for bringing information to the White House instead of the committee.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday said he doesn’t know anything about this secret meeting beyond what Nunes has said publicly about it.
“I’m not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them,” Spicer said. He added later, “I don’t know what he found.”
Last week, Spicer mocked questions about whether the White House was the source of Nunes’ information, suggesting it didn’t pass “the smell test.”
“I don’t know why he was coming up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer said Thursday, adding: “It doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense.”
According to a report by The Daily Beast, on the night of the meeting Nunes was traveling in an Uber car with an Intelligence Committee staff member and a former national security official when he reacted to something on his phone. He left the car abruptly and didn’t tell the staffer where he was going.
Nunes’ office said the information provided to the chairman came from “executive branch documents that have not been provided to Congress.”
The House Intelligence Committee has a facility where classified information can be viewed and discussed, but Nunes’ spokesman said the circumstances required that Nunes go to the White House grounds.
“Because of classification rules, the source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House Intelligence Committee space,” Langer said. “The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the chairman could view them in a legal way.”
The disclosure about the intelligence reports brought criticism from Democrats, especially those who sit on his committee and are working with him on an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. That investigation is also looking into possible ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Nunes said the intelligence reports were not related to Russia.
“The chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped,” Langer said.
On Monday, the White House confirmed that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has volunteered to be interviewed by the Senate committee about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.
Kushner is the fourth Trump associate to offer to be interviewed by the congressional committees looking into the murky Russia ties. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, Trump adviser Carter Page and Trump associate Roger Stone last week volunteered to speak as well.