Nunes: House Intel probing whether informants gathered data on Trump, Russia prior to authorized probe

House Intelligence Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesDemocrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill Hillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings MORE (R-Calif.) revealed in an interview on Thursday on "Rising" that the committee is probing whether the FBI sent informants to gather dirt on President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE and possible ties to Russia prior to the authorized investigation, which was launched in July 2016. 

"It’s one of the outstanding questions that we have for the Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena MORE. We’ve had that question out to them for pretty much three months now. They have not answered it yet," Nunes told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton, who sat down with the lawmaker on Wednesday. 

"Is it your belief it is likely that there was activity going on in advance of the start of that official FBI investigation?" Sexton asked. 

“I will just tell you we wouldn’t be asking those questions if we didn’t think we had some suspicion of that," Nunes responded. "The problem with this is, running informants into political campaigns, or political campaign actors on the counterintelligence side especially, is a major problem."

"It’s because we give special powers to our counterintelligence officials because really a lot of Americans' basic rights are taken away through that process because it’s dealing with national security, it’s usually high level," he continued. 

"So there should be a very high bar before you open up a counterintelligence investigation. So, if you are running informants into campaigns before or after you open an official investigation, most Americans, when you sit them down and talk to them, they know that that’s something really bad and that only happens in third world countries," he said.

Nunes's comments come after a group of conservative House lawmakers introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, who has been overseeing the federal probe into Russia's election interference since Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry MORE recused himself last year. 

— Julia Manchester