Let’s begin with a brief flashback. On March 22, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes conducted a bizarre press conference on White House grounds. His claim? That Obama-administration officials had monitored members of the incoming Trump administration as part of routine surveillance of foreign officials.
The whole episode was strange enough that it ultimately led Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia probe. After all, he’d gone to White House grounds to “brief” the president on information he’d obtained from the White House. He did so without sharing that information with his committee and as part of a transparent effort to help the Trump administration muddle through one of its many self-imposed public firestorms. (In March, Trump had tweeted claims that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower before the election.) In short, he did the wrong thing the wrong way.
But that didn’t mean that all of Nunes’s claims were wrong. He asserted that he’d seen evidence that Obama administration officials had “unmasked,” or disclosed in intelligence reports, the identities of Trump officials who met or communicated with representatives of foreign governments and that “none of this surveillance was related to Russia.” These were serious claims, and while they may not involve criminal behavior (“unmasking” isn’t a criminal offense), it would be highly improper — corrupt, even — to abuse America’s national-security resources for partisan political advantage.