WASHINGTON — A Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said the Russia influence operation surrounding the U.S. presidential election will “go down in the history of Mother Russia as the greatest covert action campaign” because it “created a wedge, whether real or perceived, between the White House, the intelligence community, and the American public.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a former CIA operative, told ABC News this morning that he hasn’t seen evidence President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of Trump Tower, and it wouldn’t “hurt” for President Trump to apologize.
“To quote by 85-year-old father who — Bob Hurd — who has given this advice to all of my friends when they get married, it never hurts to say you’re sorry,” the congressman said. “I think it helps with our allies. We’ve got to make sure that we’re all working together. We live in a very dangerous world and we can’t do this alone. And when we have a major ally — and it’s not just sorry to the president, but also to the UK for the claims or the intimation that the UK was involved in this, as well.”
In a White House briefing last week, press secretary Sean Spicer cited Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News alleging that Obama used British intelligence to circumvent domestic intelligence agencies.
That prompted the Brits to issue a rare public statement in response: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
At a Friday press conference, Trump defended his administration: “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox, and so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox. OK?”
The Telegraph reported that National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster directly apologized to his British counterpart, while Spicer conveyed an apology through Britain’s ambassador to the United States.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), also a member of the Intelligence Committee, appeared alongside Hurd this morning and called the past week “quite alarming.”
“You think about our longstanding relationship with the British, our relationship and information-sharing with the ‘five eyes,’ for example, and how hostile the president has been, not only to the CIA and the FBI, our own intelligence agencies, but also to Australia, for example, now Britain, and certainly Germany,” he said, referring to the intelligence alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“So these relationships work. And working together on things like counterterrorism is only successful if these nations and their intelligence agencies trust and have confidence in the United States,” Castro added. “So when you hear these outlandish comments, what I keep thinking is that there’s a real possibility that the president is undermining these relationships.”
Hurd noted that in nearly 10 years as an undercover officer in the CIA, “I was the dude in the back alleys at 4:00 in the morning collecting intelligence to protect our homeland.”
“You have professional intelligence folks. And then you have the political intelligence folks,” he explained. “The men and the women in the CIA, they do their job regardless of who is in the White House. Same for NSA. Same for FBI. These men and women are putting themselves in harm’s way. Have to deal with difficult situations.”
FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers will be testifying at a hotly anticipated House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday. Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told Fox this morning that he’s “excited” about the hearing “because for the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”
“The one crime we know that’s been committed is that one, the leaking of someone’s name through the FISA system. That is — that is a crime that’s been committed. We don’t know the answer to that,” Nunes said, referring to former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s communications that were picked up as a result of surveillance of the Russian ambassador. “That’s what we’re trying to get to the bottom of. Where there any other names that were unmasked, leaked, and leaked out? We just don’t know that yet.”
Trump told Fox last week, “We will be submitting certain things and I will be perhaps speaking about this next week. Wiretap covers a lot of different things. I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”
Nunes said he didn’t know if Trump was talking about the illegal unmasking of names gathered through legal incidental collection.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CBS this morning that she wants Comey to appear and lay everything out on the table for the American public.
“I think he should, and that, certainly, if he doesn’t, I think he should be asked to do so, and why wouldn’t he?” she said.
“There is a mixed record there,” Pelosi added of Comey. “And I am hopeful that he could go forward in a very positive way. And I think it is important for the director of the FBI not to be subjected to the president thinking he is going to investigate him, so he would terminate his service.”
Hurd predicted “some folks will probably be frustrated on Monday.”
“I’m not hearing certain answers, because there may be an active investigation going on, a criminal investigation. And if there’s an active criminal investigation, we need to allow law enforcement in order to do their job,” he noted. “Then, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should be reviewing what law enforcement — their responses have been. We should be reviewing what the intelligence community is doing.
“I’m looking forward on Monday to having the NSA director and the FBI director go through the time line, publicly, on the Russian involvement in attempts to influence our elections. What was — how did we respond? And also, part of this is, if we understand what they did, to plot out how we defend against this in the future, and maybe be able to tell our allies like France and Germany what they should be doing to inculcate themselves from Russian attacks.”
Castro stressed that potential collusion between the Trump campaign or Trump associates and the Russians is “still being investigated.”
“I’m sure that we’re not going to hear everything, because we aren’t in a classified setting,” the Texas Dem said of Comey’s appearance. “But I think there are a few things that I’m hoping to hear.”
“First, whether any Americans are being investigated for cooperating or conspiring with the Russians who interfered with our election. Second, the scope of that investigation. And third, a timeline for resolving it.”