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

House Intelligence Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Collins: Trump pick doesn't have experience to serve as director of national intelligence 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 TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far 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 RosensteinAttorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe 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 SessionsGOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump MORE recused himself last year. 

— Julia Manchester