House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that surveillance information was legally and "incidentally" collected on members of Donald Trump's presidential transition team — and possibly even Trump himself — during the last months of former President Barack Obama's administration.
The statement came nearly three weeks after Trump accused his predecessor of having his "wires tapped" at Trump Tower "prior to [the] election," and is sure to reignite debate over that claim. But it appears that the surveillance Nunes described did not come from a direct wiretap of Trump's phone, but rather from intelligence collected as a result of U.S. surveillance on foreign targets.
"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump tweeted March 4.
"Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW," Trump wrote in a separate tweet.
"I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!"
Nunes told reporters Wednesday on Capitol Hill that the information collected by the Obama administration on Trump's transition team did not appear to have been collected by improper or illegal means.
"This is a normal, incidental collection, based on what I could collect. This appears to be all legally collected foreign intelligence under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," Nunes said, citing "sources."
By law, communications can only be collected with a FISA warrant if they involve at least one party outside the United States, which would seem to rule out the possibility that this information was collected via any sort of wiretap of the phones in Trump Tower.
The California Republican added that the surveillance did not appear to be related to Russia, Politico reported.
Nunes said House Speaker Paul Ryan was made aware of the discovery, CNN reported.
"I'm actually alarmed by it," Nunes said. "I'm not going to get into legal definitions, but clearly I have a concern."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that it's not clear whether the FBI has seen the information Nunes cited.
FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee Monday that he has "no information" regarding the president's March 4 accusations. Nunes was scheduled to travel to the White House Wednesday afternoon, presumably to share what information he has.
Spicer defended against questions Wednesday regarding whether the White House interfered in an ongoing FBI investigation.
"I don't know what he knows," Spicer said, referring to Nunes.