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Obama Loyalists In White House Caught Subverting Trump By Altering the Language of His Executive Orders | Main | Nunes Press Conference Bullet Points
March 22, 2017

Rep. Nunes: Trump Transition Team Members, Possibly Including Trump Himself, Were "Under Surveillance" After November Elections
Update: Nunez Says He's Seen "Dozens" Of Intelligence Reports That Indicate Some Kind of Surveillance

Although he does go on to say this, which is just confusing:

Nunes said the surveillance appears to have been legal, incidental collection and that it does not appear to have been related to concerns over collusion with Russia.

This piece from The Hill makes the Politico piece look like it's been, get this, whitewashed to protect Obama.

The U.S. intelligence community incidentally collected information on members of President Trump's transition team and the information was "widely disseminated" in intelligence reports, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday.

"I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community collected information on U.S. individuals involved in the Trump transition," Nunes told reporters.

"Details about U.S. persons involved in the incoming administration with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reports."

The information was "legally brought to him by sources who thought we should know it," Nunes said, though he provided little detail on the source.

Nunes also said that "additional names" of Trump transition officials had been unmasked in the intelligence reports. He indicated that Trump's communications may have been swept up.

If it was "legal," I presume this means it was done after securing a warrant, in which case, I don't understand why various people have denied just this thing.

If this has nothing to do with Russia, then I assume it's part of a domestic criminal investigation -- and so I'm confused about the "incidental collection" part. I get that if you're talking about intercepting the Russian ambassador's calls; I don't get the usage in a domestic criminal case.

Also -- what crime?

Or -- are calls just generally intercepted?

"Incidentally" collected, but then deliberately disseminated -- with Obama's 11th-hour order permitting the names of US citizens caught up in alleged "incidental" collections to be unmasked.

By the way, when Nunes was asked if this establishes that Trump was being spied on, he said: "It depends on one's definition of spying."

Update: People are knocking Nunes for giving that answer, which they find "Clintonian."

Two points:

One, Nunes has been one of the guys pushing hardest to uncover the spying-on-Trump mystery.

Two, I can easily conceive of many scenarios in which one can honestly say "It depends on what you mean by spying."

Let me offer a few scenarios.

Scenario A: An intel group purposefully targets Trump personnel for data interception. Everyone would say this is spying. Though if it were done pursuant to a legal warrant, we wouldn't necessarily say that. We'd say they were lawfully surveilled. (Though we might also say they were surveilled by a warrent obtained for political purposes.) Even in this easiest-case scenario, there are arguments.

Scenario B: An intel group targets Russian officials, incidentally picks up Flynn conversations, then reviews its intercepts later specifically looking for Trump associates in the collected information. This seems like spying, but one can argue about it: the capture of Flynn's conversations was incidental, but the determined effort to sift through captured conversations specifically searching for Flynn's voice is deliberate. Is this spying? It's not before-the-fact spying, but it sure looks like after-the-fact spying.

Scenario C: Let's say Trump's team did not take the threat of Obama loyalists seriously enough for a while. Let's say that certain well-placed Obama holdovers could overhear Trump communications. Let's say the loyalists then collected the communications they had overheard to and began using them for purposes of Opposition Research.

Is this "spying"? In this scenario, the communications were not illegally intercepted. They're being used after-the-fact for purposes not intended by Trump, but they were not exactly "captured."

Anyway, Nunes seems like a pretty stand-up guy and I would not knock him for his statement. I would believe him when he says it's a bit complicated.

I mean, to me, this is "spying" at least in the broad, sloppy sense Trump intended, and vindicates Trump well enough.

But it wouldn't legally be "spying," and I think Nunes is probably just keeping safe and honest in not overselling what he knows. Otherwise, the next media attack will be "Representative Nunes Peddling Fake News."

I'd call it spying, in a general way. In a strict legal can-you-go-to-jail-for-it, maybe not. I wouldn't fault him for staying on-sides as far has actual level of information.

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