National Security

Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers

Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee has not seen the information that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee claims exposes surveillance of Trump campaign associates, two panel members said Thursday.

Appearing together during an extremely brief press appearance Thursday afternoon, Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Angus King (I-Maine) said they had not seen the material that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) claimed to have Wednesday — and could not corroborate the claims he made regarding its implications.

The Senate committee has requested that the intelligence agencies in possession of the information turn over that material, Lankford said.

“Whatever information they have should be a part not only of their committee, but also ours,” he said.

{mosads}Both King and Lankford sought to distance the Senate probe into Russian interference in the election — which has been far less public with its proceedings — from its beleaguered House counterpart.

“Sen. Lankford and I are here together to make the point that this committee operates in an entirely bipartisan way,” King said. “This is a separate committee from the House and we are continuing on our investigation and have confidence that we are going to be able to pursue this investigation wherever it leads.”

“[The House committee has] a responsibility to work out whatever differences they have,” Lankford said. “This is a very serious investigation dealing with serious accusations and issues. When you’ve got any foreign government trying to target our government, that needs to be investigated in a nonpartisan [way]. We’re going to continue to work in that way.”

Nunes bypassed his own committee on Wednesday to brief President Trump on information related to U.S. surveillance of his transition team, outraging Democrats and threatening to plunge the House committee’s probe into open partisan warfare.

Prior to briefing the White House, he told reporters that he had learned from a source that the U.S. intelligence community incidentally collected information on members of Trump’s transition team and then “widely disseminated” the information internally.

As of Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that Nunes was the only lawmaker to have seen the material in question, which he said was housed at the agency with ownership of the information. 

The backlash to the extraordinary move forced the California Republican to apologize to Democrats on the committee Thursday morning, a private mea culpa that generated praise from Republicans but a much more muted response from across the aisle.

The move also led Democrats and Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to renew calls for an independent commission to investigate the matter.

Other members of the Senate panel appeared equally mystified by Nunes’s claim. Ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) both said they had not been briefed on the matter. 
 
Republicans also appeared at a loss. 
Warner, on Wednesday, spotted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and, pivoting, joked to reporters: “I know Marco Rubio wouldn’t have done it.”

“You hear what Nunes did?” Warner asked Rubio, leading a pack of reporters across the Senate basement and over to the Florida Republican.

“Was that in the news or are you just making — are you just announcing something?” Rubio asked Warner after the Democratic senator described Nunes’s comments to him.

When Warner assured him that he hadn’t made it up, Rubio joked that “it’s fake news, man,” while winking at reporters.

 
— Jordain Carney contributed. 
Tags Angus King John McCain Marco Rubio Mark Warner Ron Wyden
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