House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) defended himself Thursday following blistering attacks from his colleagues for presenting President Donald Trump with claims the president may have been incidentally monitored during surveillance by U.S. intelligence, saying he had “an obligation” to do so.
“It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know, and I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him,” Nunes told Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night.
“As you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media,” said Nunes. “I think to some degree there are some things he should look at to see whether in fact the collection” of intelligence “was proper or not,” he added.
Nunes, whose own committee is investigating Trump’s possible ties to Russia, went to Trump privately on Wednesday without informing his colleagues on the committee. Nunes said he told Trump that reports compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies toward the end of the Obama administration mentioned the names of Trump’s associates and perhaps even Trump’s name.
Just two days earlier, FBI Director James Comey had testified before the committee that there was absolutely “no information” supporting angry tweets Trump sent out earlier this month claiming that former President Barack Obama or U.S. intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower phones.
“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said, adding that his conclusions were also confirmed by the Department of Justice.
Trump said after the meeting with Nunes on Wednesday that his tweets were “somewhat” vindicated.
House intelligence committee members slammed Nunes for taking it upon himself to pass on the unsubstantiated concerns, saying the action raised serious questions about Nunes’ ability to head the committee and conduct an impartial investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
Ranking committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) pressed Nunes on why he didn’t share about it and briefing Trump in the White House. Nunes must “decide if he is the chairman of an independent investigation or if he’s a surrogate for the White House,” said Schiff.
Nunes apologized “in a generic way,” committee member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told CNN — though it was not clear exactly what Nunes was apologizing for.
But Nunes hardly sounded apologetic in his comments to Hannity.