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Devin Nunes plot thickens, as his spokesman concedes he met source for surveillance claim at White House

The day before the House Intelligence Committee chairman revealed that conversations by Trump transition officials may have been inadvertently picked up by  U.S. surveillance, he met with the source of the information at the White House, his spokesman said Monday

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), went to the White House because there was a facility there for reviewing classified information,  said Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, who has refused to divulge the identity of his source.

“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,” Langer said.

The latest news added another twist to a bizarre series of events last week:

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey testified before Nunes' committee that his investigators were looking at possible "coordination" during the presidential campaign between Russian officials and people close to Preisdent Trump.

Tuesday night, Nunes went to the White House where someone showed him documents related to U.S. intelligence surveillance, according to his statement.

On Wednesday, Nunes announced to reporters that he had seen evidence indicating that people close to Trump had been subjects of surveillance during the transition. He then went to the White House, saying that he needed to brief Trump about the revelations.

On Thursday, Nunes apologized to committee members for not having shown the evidence to them before briefing the president.

Later that day, his spokesman conceded that Nunes did not know "for sure" that any Trump aides had actually been subject to surveillance, just that their names had appeared in intelligence reports, which could have resulted from other people talking about them.

That sequence of events could buttress Democrats' claims that the episode last week was a White House ploy to shift attention away from the FBI investigation.

Democrats already have been saying Nunes should be disqualified from heading an inquiry into whether Trump's aides had improper contacts with Russia.

Nunes' statement left several questions unanswered. One is why he would have had to go to the White House unless his source worked there, because members of Congress have access to a secure facility at the U.S. Capitol.

Asked to explain Nunes’ actions, Langer said in an email, “The information comprised executive branch documents that have not been provided to Congress. Because of classification rules, the source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House Intelligence Committee space. “

He added: “The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the Chairman could view them in a legal way."

Last week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had dismissed speculation that the White House had supplied Nunes with the information, saying that the suggestion did not pass the "smell test." He added, however, that he did not for sure what Nunes had told Trump or where his information came from.

After Nunes apologized to members of his committee Thursday and promised to “thoroughly investigate” the surveillance, several lawmakers said Nunes had promised to provide them the surveillance information he had received. That has not occurred yet.

In his first statement last week, Nunes said he was concerned that some Trump transition officials’ identities might have been improperly revealed in intelligence reports, despite rules requiring them to be kept confidential in most cases.

“The Chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped,” Langer said. 

Whether any officials' names actually were unmasked is unclear. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) has questioned Nunes’ assertions  about improper unmasking. But Schiff noted that he has not seen the documents Nunes claims to have seen.

Schiff had no comment on the news that Nunes had seen the documents at the White House.

UPDATES

10:20 a.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting.

This article was originally published as an Associated Press report at 9:06 a.m.

 

 

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