Shortly before last week's House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, a senior White House official tipped off Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker's Washington correspondent, about the line of questioning he was going to hear from Republicans on the committee, led by chair Rep. Devin Nunes.
“It’s backdoor surveillance where it’s not just incidental, it’s systematic,” the White House official told Lizza. “Watch Nunes today.”
Two days after the hearing, in which Nunes peppered Comey and Rogers with obscure questions on unmasking and incidental collection, the Californian congressman and former Trump transition team official disclosed in a press briefing that he saw evidence of possible surveillance of then-President-elect Trump and his associates. A few days later, CNN learned that Nunes in fact slipped into the White House the night before his revelatory press briefing to review sensitive information involving possible surveillance.
Nunes said Tuesday that he will "never reveal" his sources.
Since then, leading Democrats have called on Nunes to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Lizza is of the belief that Nunes and Trump had been coordinating this strategy for a while:
A few days before the hearing, Trump seemed to offer a preview of it. In an interview on Fox News, the President said that he “will be submitting things” to Nunes’s committee “very soon,” and “perhaps speaking about this next week,” adding that “you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Even Republican politicians are beginning to recognize the harm Nunes has done to any impartial investigation. North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones told the Hill Tuesday that Nunes "absolutely" had to recuse himself.
“How can you be chairman of a major committee and do all these things behind the scenes and keep your credibility? You can’t keep your credibility!” Jones said.
Other Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, have expressed growing skepticism that Nunes is the right man to lead the Russia investigation.