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

House Intelligence Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears ‘Fox & Friends’ host asks if McCabe opening FBI probe into Trump was attempt to ‘overthrow government’ Nunes says GOP lawmakers looking through Russia transcripts, will make DOJ referrals 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 TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery 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 Jay RosensteinEx-federal prosecutor: I would have 'owned' wearing a wire to record Trump The embarrassing return of Andrew McCabe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight 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 SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' MORE recused himself last year. 

— Julia Manchester