Nunes ‘Unmasking’ Report Vindicates Trump Claims on Surveillance
House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced on Wednesday that he had learned that members of President Donald Trump’s transition team had been under surveillance by the Obama administration, that individual names had been “unmasked” by the intelligence community, and that those names had been leaked to the media.
Nunes’s information — which he said he would deliver to the White House later — vindicates the bulk of Trump’s claims earlier this month.
Nunes said that while there was no direct “wiretap” by President Barack Obama of Trump Tower, there was indeed surveillance — perhaps collected incidentally — of people close to Trump, possibly including Trump himself.
Much of that had been suspected, on the basis of mainstream media reports, but Rep. Nunes reported something new: that the surveillance did not involve the ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry into Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Indeed, none of the surveillance had intelligence value, he said.
“I believe it was all done legally,” Nunes told a press conference. The question, he said, was why names of those swept up in the surveillance had been leaked. The collection of the intelligence appeared to have been legal, but the leaking may have been illegal.
Most of the activity occurred during the transition period from November to January. Furthermore, Nunes said, he did not know whether phone calls — including phone calls involving Trump — were among the communications captured.
Nunez added that the new information had come to light after Monday’s hearing with FBI Director James Comey, when the congressman had appealed to anyone with new information to come forward. He said the new revelations had been “legally brought to me by sources who thought that we should know it.
Following Monday’s hearing, the mainstream media appeared to celebrate Comey’s statement that there was no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower. Politicians, too, piled on — including some Republicans, like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who demanded that Trump apologize to Obama.
However, the only new revelation at the hearing was that senior members of the Obama administration may have been involved in “unmasking” former General Michael Flynn in intelligence reports.
Wednesday’s revelations by Rep. Nunes confirm earlier media reports of surveillance of Trump aides and associates, with the added twist that the revelations were unrelated to investigations of Russian ties to the Trump campaign.
No evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has been found, and former Obama administration intelligence officials have said publicly that such evidence does not exist.
Though the media, and the political opposition, had attacked Trump for his claims about wiretapping, he later clarified that he had used the term to refer to surveillance in a general sense. He also suggested that more evidence would soon emerge.
The result is a vindication of Trump’s controversial claims. Questions remain about whether President Obama himself knew of the surveillance, which other Obama administration officials were involved, and whether Trump was monitored directly.