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Nunes-led House Intelligence Committee asked for 'unmaskings' of Americans

04 June 2017

The embattled head of the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday appeared to have launched an investigation of his own, this one into allegations that senior Obama administration officials improperly "unmasked" the identities of Trump associates captured communicating with foreign officials. But on Wednesday, he used his power as chairman to issue subpoenas related to the inquiry. The Democrats are pressing the probe of "Russiagate", which is a separate probe from that of the Republicans, who are eagerly pursuing the "unmasking" of Trump supporters.

"If the reports are accurate, subpoenas related to the "unmasking" issue would have been sent by Chairman Nunes acting separately from the committee's Russian Federation investigation", the senior aide wrote in an email. And whatever intelligence service intercepted the communication agreed because they did reveal the identity of the American citizen involved (the White House has to make a request for such unmasking and justify it on national security grounds). Four of the subpoenas are related to the Russian Federation collusion aspect of the investigation and three - Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and John Brennan - pertain to the Obama administration's unmasking activities. Agencies "mask" the names of US persons or organizations are part of those communications, or simply a topic of the conversation, before the raw communications go into finished intelligence reports.

Brennan squirmed at a hearing last week, when he was asked by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) if any USA ambassadors had requested the unmasking of names.

It was only after those briefings that he discussed the source's information with Democrats on the committee.Nunes made those comments before Mr. Trump's May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey - a dismissal the White House initially blamed on Comey's mishandling of the Clinton email investigation.

"That authority should have been delegated to Mike Conaway in consultation with myself", Schiff continued.

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Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the committee, created a stir in March when he told reporters he'd seen secret documents that backed President Donald Trump's claims that President Barack Obama had "wiretapped" his offices. He was unable to provide any proof of wrongdoing, and following public outrage and the condemnation of all Democrats on his Committee he ultimately recused himself from leading the investigation into Russia's interference into he US election.

Committee aides complained he had acted unilaterally, and the top Democrat on the panel, Representative Adam Schiff, said Nunes' actions amounted to a breach of his recusal decision.

If media elites are wrong for lacking interest in the allegedly freedom-violating practice of unmasking, I guess Nunes was also wrong five to six times between June 2016 and January 2017.

Nunes's move prompted an outcry from Democrats and ethics watchdog groups, who accused Nunes of violating the terms of his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation.

Republicans on the panel, meanwhile, have said that the subpoena power still resides with Nunes.

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Nunes announced in early April that he would hand over the leadership of the panel's Russian Federation probe to Conaway, with assistance from Reps.

Trump's former deputy campaign manager David Bossie then reacted on "America's Newsroom", arguing that the unmasking probe is the "only actual case where we know there may be criminal acts".

However, Nunes had never recused himself from continuing to look into the issue of potentially improper unmaskings of Americans.

The Guardian newspaper said on Thursday said that Nigel Farage, a Trump supporter and a leading Brexit campaigner, is a "person of interest" in the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe but has not been accused of wrongdoing.

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