Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union on Sunday morning that he “can’t say whether anything was masked or unmasked properly” after visiting the White House on Friday to see the same the surveillance documents that committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) saw last month.
It was an unusually muted response from Schiff, and suggests that the documents substantiate Nunes’ claims that the Obama administration conducted surveillance on members of the Trump transition team, and unmasked the names of U.S. citizens improperly before the intelligence was disseminated throughout the government. He merely said that he did not “agree with the chairman’s characterization” of the documents, but did not elaborate or say Nunes was wrong.
Schiff also added that he remained upset that the documents had not been shared with him before Nunes shared them with the White House, and he raised suspicions about the way in which the White House had obtained the information.
In addition, Schiff backed off claims he made last month on MSNBC that there was “more than circumstantial” evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. When Tapper asked him point-blank whether there was “collusion,” Schiff said: “I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point.”
Schiff’s failure to contest Nunes’s claims directly, and his refusal to repeat his conclusions about Russian collusion, add subtle support to two arguments: first, the contention by two senior former Obama administration intelligence officials that there is no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia; and second, the contention by President Donald Trump that he and his team were the victims of improper surveillance and leaks by the outgoing Obama administration.