House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters on Wednesday that members of the Donald Trump transition team, and potentially Trump himself, were under surveillance during the Obama administration following November's election, according to "sources."
The surveillance appears to have been legal and "incidental," said Nunes. It also does not appear to have been related to concerns over collusion with Russia.
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.
Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.
Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.
Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”
Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.
Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.
Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.
Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.
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Nunes made his announcement at a news conference two days after the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, confirmed to a hearing of his committee that it was conducting a criminal investigation of potential links between Trump associates and Russia, as Moscow sought to influence the 2016 U.S. election to benefit Trump.
"I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions the intelligence community ... collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition," Nunes told reporters.
Nunes said he obtained the information from a source he did not identify in any way. Democrats on the committee said they had not been consulted about the information before the news conference.
"I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team," Nunes said.
However, Nunes said later that he could not be sure that other information existed elsewhere related to Russia.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of seeking to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by hacking computer systems and spreading disinformation. Russia denies the allegations.
Nunes said he was "very concerned" about whether U.S. intelligence agencies were spying on Trump. He said he had briefed Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and planned to share the information with the White House later on Wednesday.
Nunes spoke to reporters just before Trump spokesman Sean Spicer gave his daily news briefing at the White House.
Spicer read some of Nunes' statement during the briefing.
"I do think it is a startling revelation, and there's a lot of questions that need to get asked," Spicer said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Alexander; editing by Grant McCool)