Graham: ‘I Wonder If My Meetings Are Being Surveilled by the Intelligence Community’

By Susan Jones | March 23, 2017 | 7:01am EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explains the "disturbing" aspect of Rep. Devin Nunes' revelation that “on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” (Screen grab from CNN)

(CNSNews.com) - Hours after House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) announced he has new information about the incidental, but legal, collection of information on members of the Trump transition team, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the revelation is “disturbing.”

“I meet with foreign leaders all the time as a senator,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday evening. “I wonder if my meetings are being surveilled by the intelligence community. If so, I think when I'm involved, that would be inappropriate, because I may be talking of things of policy that I don't want the executive branch to know about.”

Nunes told reporters on Wednesday that he recently confirmed that “on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”

Nunes said details with “little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.” He also said the names of Trump transition team members “were unmasked.”

Nunes said the surveillance has nothing to do with Russia’s efforts to influence the election or with the alleged coordination between the Trump team and Russia.

“From what I know right now, it looks like incidental collection. We don’t know how that was picked up,” Nunes told reporters. “But we’re trying to get to the bottom of it.” He said he expects to get more information on Friday.

Nunes sparked a storm of criticism from intelligence committee Democrats by going public with the information and briefing President Trump at the White House before telling members of his own committee.

Sen. Graham told CNN that Nunes’ announcement does not indicate that the Trump campaign was unlawfully surveilled.

“It tells me that there is no evidence of surveilling of the Trump campaign where a warrant was issued or requested by the FBI. That the NSA was never involved in surveilling the Trump campaign, ordered by the Obama administration. 

“Now, we surveil foreign agents all the time -- foreign leaders. We surveil people as part of intelligence gathering. 

“The one thing that is a bit disturbing is that a transition team  you expect to be talking to other countries. What I want to know is when a transition team member talks to a representative of another country, what are the procedures to make sure that that is confidential in terms of the interaction between our government and a foreign nation?”

Graham said he’s “glad” the U.S. government is listening in on people in an effort to keep the country safe “and have good intelligence about what’s going on in the world.”

“But there’s a legal process. So from what I understand is that Trump members were talking to people that were under legal surveillance. Here is the question I think for the country. Should the executive branch, should the intelligence community, be surveilling conversations between transition team members, members of Congress, about policy, not intelligence gathering? 

“That's – that’s a good question. I don't know the answer to that. I would like to think that when I spoke to the prime minister of Iraq, that I wasn't being surveilled.” 

Graham, in response to a question, said he finds it a “bit odd” that Nunes rushed over to the White House to brief the president before briefing his own committee.

“But at the end of the day, I don't see any evidence from this story that the Obama administration had the Trump administration surveilled, that they were being followed or wiretapped. 

“What is odd about this story is that there’s incidental collection going on between members of the transition team and foreign governments and my question is, how routine is that? And as a member of the Senate, can I feel comfortable talking to a member of a foreign government?”

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