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White House invites lawmakers to see intelligence material after New York Times report

The White House has invited House and Senate intelligence committee chairs to review documents that it says were recently discovered by national security staff that could help determine whether information gathered about American citizens was mishandled.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer would not say whether these are the same documents that Rep. Devin Nunes, the Tulare Republican who chairs the House intelligence committee, said he reviewed last week.

Nunes has refused to identify his sources. Some saw his disclosure as an attempt to give credence to President Trump's widely refuted claim that President Obama had ordered wiretaps on his phone during the campaign. Nunes said the material he reviewed suggested that intelligence agencies had incidentally collected information about Trump or his associates. He has declined to be more specific or share the information with the committee.

But the New York Times reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources, that two White House officials helped Nunes get access to the documents. And now the same information may be provided to other members of the Intelligence committee.

In a letter to the bipartisan group of intelligence leaders sent Thursday, White House Counsel Donald McGhan said administration lawyers would supervise the review “given the sensitivity of the documents” to “protect the extremely sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”

The letter calls on the committee to investigate the possibility that classified information was inappropriately gathered and handled and whether civil liberties of American citizens were violated.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he welcomed the chance to review the materials, though he said he would be obligated to share them with the rest of his committee.

More troubling to Schiff, he said, was the “cloak and dagger stuff” and “circuitous route” that the White House national security staff appears to have used to disseminate the materials in that secret meeting with Nunes. Schiff said White House staff may have been trying to “launder information through the committee,” rather than simply providing it directly to the president.

“If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing,” Schiff said. “We need to get to the bottom of whether this was some sort of stratagem by the White House.”

In a letter to McGhan, Schiff said answering the White House’s questions would require asking intelligence agencies how the information in the documents was gathered.

“I hope you will confirm to the committee whether these materials are the same as those first shared with” Nunes, Schiff wrote.

2:11: This story was updated with staff reporting

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