March 23 (UPI) — Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said Chairman Devin Nunes apologized to lawmakers for sharing information about surveillance on members of Donald Trump‘s campaign with the White House before the full panel was briefed.
Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, said Wednesday he had been presented with information from an unidentified source that intelligence officers had “incidentally” listened in on conversations between Trump advisers and unknown individuals, then spread that information to others in the intelligence community. The allegation, if true, could at least partly confirm Trump’s unsubstantiated claim he was the subject of government-sanctioned spying before taking office.
In what Democrats called a a breach of longstanding protocol on the Intelligence Committee, Nunes publicized the information, then personally briefed Trump on what he’d been told. Democrats said the full intelligence panel should have been informed of the information and its source. Failing to do so, they said, had compromised the committee’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the election, which has grown to include Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration ordered his telephones tapped.
“He’s not the president’s lawyer and he betrayed the independence that our committee must show at such a trying time in our nation’s history,” Rep. Eric Stalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “And this is all the more reason that we need an independent commission to get to the bottom of this.”
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey told Congress his agency is actively investigating members of Trump’s campaign in connection with the Russian election hacking, though he said no evidence has been uncovered to suggest any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russia.
As for Nunes, Democrats on the committee said he initially did not want to discuss the wiretapping allegations or the new evidence he had uncovered during a closed-door meeting Thursday. Democrats said they pressed him on the matter and he apologized and pledged to turn over the information, though did not provide a timetable for doing so.