National Security

Devin Nunes, Trump and the Russia probe: A timeline


It’s the biggest mystery gripping Washington, D.C.: Why did Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) do what he did?

The beleaguered House Intelligence Committee chairman last week took a trip to the White House to view documents he says expose the widespread incidental collection of surveillance on Trump transition team members.

{mosads}After a hastily called press conference the next day, Nunes raced back to the White House to brief the president on his findings.

No one else had at that point seen the documents.

The unusual sequence of events — and Nunes’s often-opaque explanations — have led committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to suggest that the White House was “laundering” intelligence through the committee.

Here’s The Hill’s tick-tock of what we know.

Saturday, March 4

President Trump tweets a claim that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the campaign.

Wednesday, March 15

President Trump tells Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that “We are going to be submitting certain things [to the Intelligence Committee].”

“I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” he said.

Monday, March 20

FBI Director James B. Comey publicly announces that the bureau is investigating potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee — a hearing widely interpreted as bad for the White House.

Tuesday, March 21

Nunes secretly travels to the White House grounds to meet an unnamed source, who shows him the mystery intelligence reports in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Daily Beast will later report that he was traveling with a staffer at night and that after receiving “communication” on his phone, Nunes abruptly switched cars and heads to the White House alone.

In later interviews, Nunes will dispute this account, telling reporters that it was daytime and that he spoke to several “foreign dignitaries” on the White House grounds.

Wednesday morning, March 22

Nunes briefs House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on his findings.

Wednesday midday, March 22

Nunes holds a hastily scheduled solo press appearance — billed as related to the committee’s Russia investigation — and tells reporters that “on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition” including “details about people associated with the incoming administration… with little apparent foreign intelligence value.”

Those details had nothing to do with Russia or the Russia investigation and were “widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”

“I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked,” Nunes says.

Nunes reiterates that he has seen no evidence that Trump was wiretapped. 

Wednesday afternoon, March 22

Nunes heads back to the White House to brief President Trump.

In a second press availability, he indicates that the information he saw may have been derived from Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants — which are classified, raising speculation that Nunes may have revealed classified information at the podium.

He says that he had a “duty” to tell the president.

President Trump says he feels “somewhat” vindicated by Nunes’s disclosure, after weeks of lawmakers and intelligence officials publicly disavowing his claim he was “wiretapped.”

Thursday, March 23

Press Secretary Sean Spicer refutes the suggestion that Nunes could have received his information from the White House.

“I don’t know why he would come up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer said.

Nunes apologizes to his fellow committee members for bypassing them. 

Friday, March 24

Nunes draws criticism for canceling an open hearing featuring former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan scheduled for March 28. He said the cancellation has “nothing to do with the new documents” and that the committee needs more time to interview Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers in a closed setting.

Later that night, The Daily Beast first reports Nunes’s White House visit, igniting a firestorm of scrutiny.

Monday, March 27

A spokesman for Nunes explains the decision: “Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.”

The House Intelligence committee has its own secure facility in the U.S. Capitol.

Nunes tells Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake that his source was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer.

Schiff, as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), call for Nunes to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation.

Tuesday, March 28

Nunes says he will “never” tell his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee who gave him the documents, vowing to protect his source.

Wednesday, March 29

Ryan rebuffs calls for Nunes to step down from the committee. He says Nunes described his source as “a whistleblower-type person.”

Thursday, March 30

The New York Times reports that Nunes’s sources were two White House officials: Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security at the White House Counsel’s Office and was previously counsel on the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff speculates that the White House was attempting to “launder” intelligence through the House committee.

“Why all the cloak and dagger stuff?” he tells reporters in a late-afternoon press conference.

“They don’t need our chairman to deliver something to the president they can deliver themselves,” Schiff said. “The White House needs to answer is this instead a case in which to effectively launder information through our committee to avoid [revealing] the true source of the information.”

Friday, March 31

Spicer, struggling with questions about Nunes at his daily briefing, says Nunes’s visit “was 100 percent proper.”

Later that day, Schiff releases a statement saying that he went to the White House to view materials which were presented to him as the same information that Nunes saw. 

“Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures, and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees,” Schiff says. “The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House.”

–This report was updated on April 3 at 6:52 a.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Barack Obama Paul Ryan

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