President-elect Donald Trump wants to get to the bottom of news reports that revealed that intelligence agencies had intercepted chatter among Russian government officials celebrating Trump’s election. But although he was scheduled to get briefed on the matter on Friday, he doesn’t seem very interested in the intelligence itself. Instead, he wants to find out how details from an unreleased intelligence report —the results of an investigation President Obama ordered last month— made their way to the press. He tweeted Friday:
I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2017
The president-elect wasn’t specific about the committees he was referring to, and questions to his transition team went unanswered. But it’s likely Trump was talking about the House and Senate intelligence committees, whose leaders are privy to state secrets and were briefed on the classified report on Thursday. The committees could ostensibly hold hearings or perform an investigation into the leaks.
But when Trump tweeted that he would reach out to the committees, he hadn’t yet communicated anything to their top members.
A spokesperson for Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of Trump’s own transition team, said that Nunes had “not received an official request on this yet.” Neither had Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the same committee and an outspoken Trump critic, according to a representative.
There was also no outreach to Mark Warner, the Democratic vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a spokesperson said. The office of Richard Burr, the Republican chair of that committee, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Schiff replied to Trump’s tweet shortly after it was sent, criticizing him for pursuing misplaced priorities by focusing on the leak:
Of all issues implicated by Russian active measures, this is what you want to investigate? This is your top priority for intel committees? https://t.co/8K7tgGij2o— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 6, 2017
And although Trump called for an investigation into the leaks “prior to [him] seeing” the intelligence community’s report, the Associated Press reported that the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the FBI and the CIA arrived at Trump Tower at 1 p.m. Friday to deliver the classified briefing.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s role in hacking Democratic operatives and organizations. He’s questioned the intelligence community’s abilities and motivations, calling the focus on election-related hacking a “political witch hunt” in an interview with The New York Times on Friday, just hours before he was set to receive the top-secret briefing. Now, as he’s being clued into the spy agencies’ classified findings, he’s looking to deflect attention from the report itself onto its leak to the press.
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