According to House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Trump was right to believe his team was spied on.
Democrats say that Nunes’ statements don’t prove Trump was right. But before Nunes they were claiming that Trump had never been put under surveillance. Now, they are getting more vociferous about how wrong Trump was because the evidence is mounting that Trump was right.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes declared Wednesday that members of Donald Trump’s transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under inadvertent surveillance following November’s presidential election.
The White House and Trump’s allies immediately seized on the statement as vindication of the president’s much-maligned claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower phones — even though Nunes himself said that’s not what his new information shows.
No. They show that Trump was spied on. In his typical strategy, Trump got the media to cover it by being as outrageous as possible.
Nunes’ information certainly raises doubts about FBI Director James Comey’s assurances that Trump was not surveilled.
Nunes set off the firestorm with a news conference earlier in the day in which he described the surveillance of Trump aides through what’s called “incidental collection,” something he noted was routine and legal. Such collection can occur when a person inside the United State communicates with a foreign target of U.S. surveillance. In such cases, the identities of U.S. citizens are supposed to be shielded — but can be “unmasked” by intelligence officials under certain circumstances.
Nunes, himself a Trump transition member, said a “source” had shown him evidence that members of the Trump transition team had been unmasked — and that their identities had been revealed in U.S. intelligence reports. Nunes had previously raised questions about the unmasking of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose communications with Russia’s ambassador were intercepted by the U.S. government and whose identity was leaked to the news media.
Nunes suggested this unmasking might have been done for political reasons, saying the evidence he had seen had been widely disseminated across the intelligence community and had “little or no apparent intelligence value.” He added that he was trying to get more information by Friday from the FBI, CIA and NSA.
While this surveillance was legal because the government can do anything it wants, unmasking the names was obviously a political move.
Don’t be fooled by the term “incidental collection” or “inadvertent surveillance.” That just means there’s no order in writing somewhere that directs an intelligence agency to spy one the Trump team. It doesn’t prove that Trump was not the intended target. Whenever you see those terms remember another term: “plausible deniability.” The intelligence community will never admit it if they intentionally spied on Trump or his staff.
“I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were, I guess, at least monitored,” the California Republican told reporters. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the president-elect and his transition team and what they were doing.” He said the information he had seen was not related to the FBI’s Russia investigation.
If the information is being accurately described by Nunes, then it has nothing to do with Russia. That means that Democrats on the intelligence community who are complaining and accusing Nunes for not sharing his information with them first have no basis for their complaint.