House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s relationship with the intelligence community is not the reason for the recent high-profile leaks from his administration.
“There’s a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The rank-and-file people that are out doing jobs across the world, very difficult places, they don’t pay attention to what’s going on in Washington.”
Mr. Trump and other administration officials have railed in recent days against “criminal” leaks to the press, particularly when it comes to issues of national security and foreign policy.
The real problem, Nunes said, is not intelligence agents who don’t like Mr. Trump but Obama-era people who have “burrowed in” throughout the federal government, people who are likely behind these leaks.
“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who have burrowed in perhaps all throughout the government who clearly are leaking to the press and it is against the law,” he said. “Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there are nine people who said this, well, these are nine people who broke the law.”
Nunes said there are three specific leaks he has “a big problem with”: Mr. Trump’s conversation with the president of Mexico, his conversation with the prime minister of Australia, and the leak about ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contact with Russian officials.
“These are all against the law,” he said. “And you can’t operate a government like this if you can’t even have the president of the United States or his national security adviser able to have conversations in private with foreign leaders.”
When it comes to Flynn, Nunes said, he was a private citizen at the time -- meaning “somebody decided to unmask that name, somebody either within the Department of Justice or others within the administration.” He called on the FBI to investigate where those leaks came from, though he said the House Intelligence Committee doesn’t plan to look into this itself.
“The number of people that would actually have known that Mike Flynn -- Gen. Flynn, who was the national security adviser designee, was having conversations with the Russians had to be a very, very small number and it had to be at the highest levels of the Obama administration,” he said.
As for the alleged contact between other Trump campaign staffers and Russian officials during the election, Nunes said he doesn’t necessarily take these media reports seriously -- but that if Americans have been in contact with Russia, he wants to know, and would investigate.
“Basically putting names of people in newspaper outlets, that’s not real credible evidence that an American citizen has done something wrong,” he said. “But if there are American citizens, who are -- from any political party, that are communicating with Russia, Russian agents, I want to know about it. Bring it to the committee because we’d like to investigate.”
Asked whether the House Intelligence Committee would investigate Flynn for his contact with Russia, Nunes said he’ll look into it if there is “credible evidence.”
“What I’ve said is we’ll follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said. “So if there’s credible evidence against General Flynn that he’s done something wrong, we’d love to do that. But the fact of the matter is I don’t see any evidence that he actually discussed Russia sanctions, dealing with the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine.”
As for implementing tax reform, a stated goal of congressional Republicans this year, Nunes said the process will be “very, very difficult” -- and that Congress has plenty of work to do in educating both the American people and its own members about the options on the table.
“One of the things that we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to educate the American public,” he said. “Currently, right now, nobody can understand the tax code. The tax reform that we’re talking about is one that actually the American people, once they understand it, will like it and they’ll be able to implement it.”