On Morning Joe Thursday, host Joe Scarborough said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes "blew himself up" on Wednesday. The MSNBC anchor's remark came in response to the Arizona Republican congressman publicly revealing that Donald Trump or his campaign associates had been caught up in "incidental" intelligence collection that he deemed to be "inappropriate."
"Nunes blew himself up yesterday, as did -- I mean, he also blew up his House Intel committee," Scarborough ranted. "He feeds right into the hands of Republicans like John McCain saying we now need an independent investigation."
On Wednesday, Nunes held press conferences on Capitol Hill and outside the White House, after meeting Trump, and announced a possibility that the post-election communications of Trump and his associates may have been under surveillance by the intelligence community conducting surveillance of communications abroad.
"For the Chairman of the Intelligence committee to have these two high profile press conferences make a big show of briefing the President on Executive Branch intelligence information, it's inexplicable," political analyst Mark Halperin declared. "The people on Capitol Hill are looking at this and says not only harms the House Intelligence Committee, but undermines people's confidence in the entire process. The notion of congressional oversighted and notion of confidentiality. No reason to do this that serves the public interest."
Halperin added, "Everyone I've talked to in both parties are stunned by what he did."
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
Despite Nunes' remarks, Scarborough chided the President and said, "If there had been anything new here and, so far, there isn’t anything new here...But if there had been anything new here and if you were to believe what people inside the Trump White House, what they are saying, that it's going to come out that they were incidental -- there was collection from incidental targets, but then they were used improperly down the road."
"Let's just take the White House's argument. Trump still was lying about Barack Obama. But let's just say they have a good argument that the Intel community played fast and loose and then used the information they incidentally collected improperly," Scarborough added.
Here is the March 23rd exchange:
6:09:06 AM – 6:16:43 AM [7 min., 37 sec.]
[ROLL CLIP OF NUNES PRESS CONFERENCES ON MARCH 22nd]
JASON ALEXANDER: Why is it appropriate for you to brief President Trump given its his own administration or campaign associates that are a part of this investigation? Doesn't it appear to be interference of some form or have the potential for that?
DEVIN NUNES: Because what I saw has nothing to do with Russia and nothing to do with the Russian investigation. It has everything to do with possible surveillance activities and the President needs to know that these intelligence reports are out there and I have a duty to tell him that. What I've read bothers me and I think it should bother the President himself, and his team, because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.
REPORTER: Was the President personally involved? Is it directed to what he tweeted?
NUNES: It is possible. I think the wiretapping if you use it generally like the President has said, he clearly used it differently than what I think a lot of people took it which was did Obama actually wiretap Trump Tower, which we know didn’t happen.
REPORTER: I think the President is clear to that.
NUNES: No, no. In the dozens of reports I was able to see, I was able to determine that it was -- it looks like it was legal -- legal connection, incidental collection, but made itself into intelligence reports. So it has to deal with FISA and multiple number of FISA warrants out there but there is nothing criminal at all involved.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mark Halpern, this is one of the most staggering things I've seen. Donald Trump tweets something outrageous about President Barack Obama. Let’s be specific. He said that he was “sick.” He basically committed a felony. He tapped Trump Tower. Barack Obama did, specifically. And it was illegal. A good lawyer could get a case against him. And then the past three weeks, he has trashed his administration because he has done that. He trashed, of course, Barack Obama. He trashed Great Britain, our closest allies. Now he is trashing the Intel Committee. Because you heard the House Intel Committee Chairman saying that Obama didn't tap Donald Trump, that there wasn't any specific surveillance of Donald Trump, and that what was intercepted is what we have all been saying could have happened now for three weeks, incidental collection. This just continues. And now any hope of an independent investigation on Capitol Hill has been blown up. Nunes blew himself up yesterday, as did -- I mean, he also blew up his House Intel Committee. He feeds right into the hands of Republicans like John McCain saying we now need an independent investigation. Have you seen anything like this before? All of your years of covering politics?
MARK HALPERIN: I haven't. I haven't. It's hard to find the right words to describe this because it's against so many policy things that are important. For the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee to have these two high profile press conferences make a big show of briefing the President on Executive Branch intelligence information, it's inexplicable. The people on Capitol Hill are looking at this and says not only harms the House Intelligence Committee, but undermines people's confidence in the entire process. The notion of congressional oversighted and notion of confidentiality. No reason to do this that serves the public interest. Everyone I've talked to in both parties are stunned by what he did.
SCARBOROUGH: If there had been anything new here and, so far, there isn’t anything new here, Mark. But if there had been anything new here and if you were to believe what people inside the Trump White House, what they are saying, that it's going to come out that they were incidental -- there was collection from incidental targets, but then they were used improperly down the road. Let's just take the White House's argument. Trump still was lying about Barack Obama. But let's just say they have a good argument that the Intel community played fast and loose and then used the information they incidentally collected improperly. Even if that were to be proven down the road and they had an argument that the Intel community played fast and loose with the information that they gathered legally, which everybody is saying you still go to your Ranking Member and say, “We got something that I feel like we are going to have to hold a hearing on Friday and we need to call the Committee together and get them the information.” That's how it works. Even if he had anything.
HALPERIN: Correct. You don't hold press conferences. Literally the last person should be doing this is the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. The standards that he used to do this were inexplicable and Kasie Hunt, let me ask you. What happens next with the Intelligence Committee? What happens today now that the Chairman has done this and created a break between him and the Ranking Member?
KASIE HUNT: I think the first question here is, honestly, the Chairman raised way more questions with this than he even came close to answering. And the way -- I talked to him after he came back from the White House trying to clarify before the Ranking Member Adam Schiff was about to go in front of the cameras whether or not he is showing this information to the Ranking Member. He told me he doesn't have it in gone somewhere to see it and look at him so it was unavailable for him to provide to Democrats. In order, he briefed Paul Ryan and the press and the President on this before talking to Adam Schiff. The way that Nunes chose his word, I think, created a lot of confusion as well. I've talked to a couple of intelligence experts behind the scenes who were confused about the basic terminology he was using to describe what he was seeing. I asked Adam Schiff about it again. He had had a conversation with Nunes, where Nunes had described some of what he had seen. Again, reminder, Adam Schiff has not, as far as we know or hadn't when I left Capitol Hill late last night, seen this information but I pressed him on what it was that Nunes had described to him he had seen to try to get a sense where Democrats might be on this. Take a look.
HUNT: So did he explain to you more about what exactly it was that he had seen, he didn't see names? This list?
ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it appeared that most of the names were masked and the issue the Chairman took was that he could still figure out who the people were even though the names were masked. That's not an indication that they were improperly masked. So, you know, the issue may be that the Chairman needs a briefing on the masking procedures, but nothing what I heard from the Chairman indicates there was any kind of improper foreign surveillance.
HUNT: Did the Chairman say anything to you about the source of the information that he was provided? Is it credible in your view?
SCHIFF: He did not want to disclose.
WILLIE GEIST: Michael Schmidt, Mark Halperin noted any reason to give two press conferences would be to protect the President of the United States. We should point out it's just interesting that David Nunes was on Trump's transition team as he moved into the White House after he was elected President. Can you think of any other justification for the actions he took yesterday?