March 30, 2017 / 6:02 PM / 2 years ago

Two White House officials helped give Nunes intelligence reports: NYT

House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) leaves the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two White House officials played a role in providing House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes with documents showing President Donald Trump and his associates were swept up in surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Times identified the White House officials as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s office.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the details of the report during a briefing on Thursday.

The New York Times reported that Cohen-Watnick began reviewing “highly classified reports” about intercepted communications of foreign officials after Trump said on Twitter earlier this month that he was “wiretapped” by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

The reports reviewed by Cohen-Watnick consisted of mostly of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how to develop contacts with the Trump family and his inner circle ahead of inauguration, the paper reported.

FBI Director James Comey told Congress he had seen no evidence to support the wiretapping claim. Obama has denied the accusation through a spokesman.

Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, has faced criticism from Democrats and some prominent Republicans, for the way he handled the allegations about U.S. spy agency surveillance of Trump’s team.

Many Democrats, including Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, have called for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation after he met last week with an unidentified source at the White House complex, accusing him of colluding with the White House.

The House Intelligence Committee, headed by Nunes, is also investigating possible Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Russia has denied the allegations.

Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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