Republican and Democratic lawmakers who reviewed the same intelligence documents as House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) say they have not yet seen evidence to support the allegation that the Obama administration collected information on Trump transition associates, according to a Tuesday CNN report.
Their assessment of these documents indicates doubt about what Nunes interpreted as possible evidence that former President Obama officials incidentally collected intelligence on Trump transition officials during a broader intelligence probe. They also cast doubt on President Trump's accusation that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice improperly requested the "unmasking," or revelation of identities, of Trump associates in intelligence reports.
Several House and Senate Intelligence committee members and their respective aides examined intelligence reports last week at the National Security Agency headquarters, according to CNN.
A congressional intelligence official told CNN that Rice’s requests, particularly for her high-level advising role, appeared "normal and appropriate.”
And another official reportedly said there is "absolutely" no blatant proof of wrongdoing by Rice in the reports and urged the Trump administration to declassify the documents to show the public there is no reason for alarm.
CNN reports that some lawmakers are still concerned about “the justification” for making unmasking requests, as well as intelligence community protocols for deliberating whether to accept or deny such requests to identify private U.S. citizens, whose names are normally redacted in intelligence reports.
Trump accused Rice of committing a crime last week during an interview with The New York Times, but he did not provide evidence to support his claim.
When asked whether he believes Rice acted illegally, the president said: ”Do I think? Yes, I think.”
Rice denied the accusation of being politically motivated with her requests last week on MSNBC.
House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and whether the Kremlin might have coordinated with Trump campaign associates in an attempt to help him win. Rice may now be on the long list of witnesses the committees plan to interview.
Nunes came under fire last month after he announced he had seen intelligence showing that that Trump transition officials were swept up in routine U.S. intelligence and were unmasked in reports. He briefed the president on what he had seen without consulting with fellow Intelligence Committee members.
He visited White House grounds the day before to view the information, and two White House officials reportedly helped give him the intelligence.
Nunes's office did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
Nunes, who was leading the House investigation, temporarily recused himself from the Russia probe last week after the House Ethics Committee opened its own investigation into whether Nunes revealed classified information when he spoke with the press.