On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) made the decision to present intelligence reports to the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation without first bringing it to the attention of intelligence agencies or his own committee.
Nunes’ handling of evidence he claims shows “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition” appeared to be a clumsy attempt to validate President Trump’s evidence-free accusation that President Trump wiretapped him in October — an accusation that was discredited by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday.
Nunes’ antics were described by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as “very disturbing.” Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff for the CIA, said he’s “never heard of a chairman of an oversight committee going to brief the president of the United States about concerns he has about things he’s read in intelligence reports.”
“The job of the committee is to do oversight over the executive branch — not to bring them in to their investigation or tip them off to things they may have been looking at,” Bash added. “I’ve gotta believe other members of the committee are horrified at what they just witnessed.”
Indeed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Nunes’ actions cast “great doubt” on his credibility as chairman and suggested an independent commission may now be needed.
But there was at least one person who applauded Nunes’ actions — Dan Scavino Jr., assistant to the president and director of White House social media.
In a tweet, Scavino praised Nunes — who is supposed to be conducting oversight of the executive branch — for his loyalty to Trump, characterizing the House intel chair as “a member of [Trump’s] campaign from the start.”
— Dan Scavino Jr. (@DanScavino) March 23, 2017
On Thursday, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) told reporters that Nunes apologized to committee members behind closed doors, though she didn’t specify what the apology was about.
During his own brief news conference on Thursday morning, Nunes characterized his decision to go to Trump first as a “judgement call.” He refused to say whether he the intelligence information he received was fed to him by the White House.
Predictably, Trump touted Nunes’ findings during a Time magazine interview that was conducted just before Nunes headed to the White House.
“House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes told reporters, wow,” Trump said to his interviewer, reading a Politico report about Nunes’ news conference. “Nunes said, so that means I’m right.”
UPDATE: Despite the White House’s praise for Nunes’ undying loyalty, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) “has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair, and credible investigation” into Trump’s ties with Russia.
"Speaker Ryan has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair, and credible investigation." – speaker's office
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) March 23, 2017