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

House Intelligence Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesJuan Williams: Trump, his allies and the betrayal of America Trump expected to nominate Texas GOP lawmaker to replace Dan Coats: report House Republicans claim victory after Mueller hearings 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 TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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 RosensteinWhy the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing Rosenstein: Trump should focus on preventing people from 'becoming violent white supremacists' 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 SessionsDOJ should take action against China's Twitter propaganda Lewandowski says he's 'happy' to testify before House panel The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE recused himself last year. 

— Julia Manchester