Nunes remains powerful force in House Russia probe


05 June, 2017

The spy agency subpoenas were not mentioned in a bipartisan announcement on Wednesday that the panel approved subpoenas for President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in connection with the Russian Federation probe.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the committee is specifically seeking records regarding unmasking requests that may have been made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Nunes issued the subpoenas to the FBI, CIA, and NSA related to those unmaskings, and Democrats accused him of violating his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation. The committee aide, who wasn't authorized to discuss the issue and spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the action would have been taken without agreement from the Democratic minority on the committee.

A GOP aide emphasized this divide to the Wall Street Journal, saying that "the unmasking investigation was now considered separate from the Russian Federation probe, allowing Mr. Nunes to act on his own".

In 2016, the NSA released the identities of 1,934 USA persons gathered under a particular surveillance program in response to unmasking requests, according to a transparency report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence earlier this year.

Four were issued to ousted national security adviser Flynn, the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and their respective companies.

US privacy laws and intelligence regulations require that Americans' names picked up in foreign communications intercepts be concealed unless senior officials request them to be disclosed for intelligence or law enforcement purposes.

"Nunes is not going to be able to go any further", the Democratic aide said, adding that, if he did, committee Democrats would pressure House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove Nunes as chairman.

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"Commitments to recuse himself have not been fully honored", Adam Schiff said in an interview with MSNBC.

"These were sent out unilaterally by the chairman", Schiff added, "and they are part of the White House's desire to shift the attention away from the Russian Federation probe and onto the attention of unmasking".

Rice, Power and Brennan are believed to have knowledge of recent intelligence leaks to media outlets as well as unmasking American citizens.

The unmasking of the names of Trump transition officials in intercepted communications was the topic Nunes said he was looking into during one of his White House visits. When Comey was sacked, White House officials first claimed it was because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state. On that score, it has previously been reported that the committee's chairman, Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), has reviewed intelligence reporting and detected instances of unmasking.

Trump on Thursday renewed his allegation, without citing evidence, that his campaign communications were monitored, saying in a tweet: "The big story is the "unmasking and surveillance" of people that took place during the Obama administration".

"I think the agencies are cooperating with us and have not attempted to withhold any information from us", he said.

But on Fox News' Special Report Thursday evening, James Rosen reported that "Schiff's staff later acknowledged to Fox News that they had been informed of the unmasking subpoenas on Tuesday - some 24 hours before their issuance".

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