Who Are the Two White House Officials Who Provided Rep. Nunes with Intelligence Reports on Trump?
A pair of White House officials had a hand in providing Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.-R) with intelligence reports revealing that President Donald Trump and his cronies were the subject of foreign surveillance by American spy organizations, The New York Times reported.
Nunes, who also serves as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is supposed to be conducting an independent investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the presidential election but has since faced criticism from his fellow congressmen for running to Trump with the damning details before consulting with other members of the intelligence committee.
The House chairman first announced the existence of the intelligence reports March 22 but has been tight-lipped about his sources. For fear that naming names could cause a “chilling effect” on others coming to the committee with sensitive info, Nunes has only described his sources as “whistleblowers” putting themselves at risk to expose wrongdoing.
A number of current U.S. officials have since identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, an attorney who covers national security issues at the White House Counsel’s office, The New York Times reported.
Officials claimed the reports consisted mainly of ambassadors and foreign officials discussing plans to develop contacts with Trump’s family and members of his close inner circle ahead of the inauguration. They said the documents made no mention of the FBI’s probe into Russia, which is consistent with what Nunes told reporters at the presser disclosing the existence of the intelligence reports.
That hasn’t stopped House Democrats from pressing Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, however. Top Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California argued the intelligence committee is incapable of conducting a fair and impartial investigation due to the congressman’s close ties with Trump’s administration.
“We’ve reached the point, after the events of this week, where it would be very difficult to maintain the credibility of the investigation if the chairman did not recuse himself from matters involving either the Trump campaign or the Trump transition team of which he was a member,” Schiff told CNN Monday, March 27.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed Schiff’s sentiments, calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to urge Nunes to step down from the investigation.
“The Chair of the House Intelligence has a serious responsibility to the Congress and to the country,” Pelosi said in a statement to CNN Monday. “Chairman Nunes’ discredited behavior has tarnished that office. Speaker Ryan must insist that Chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.”
Despite the push back, Nunes confirmed Tuesday morning that he was “moving forward” with the Russia-Trump investigation.” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said the Speaker’s support for Nunes was unwavering and that he would not ask the congressman to recuse himself.
“Speaker Ryan has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair, and credible investigation,” Strong said.
For now, the House chair has cancelled all committee meetings and plans to delay his investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign were in collusion with Russian efforts to rig the presidential election.
There’s no word on when the probe will pick back up.