The day before he announced to reporters that Donald Trump may have been incidentally monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies during the transition, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes met with the source of that information at the White House, a Nunes spokesman told NBC News.
"Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source," said his spokesman, Jack Langer. "The Chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped."
White House spokesman Sean Spicer refused to comment when asked why Nunes was on White House grounds, saying he only knew what Nunes had done based on public statements made to various media outlets.
Former White House official Ned Price told NBC News that Nunes would have had to have been signed into the White House facility. It woulld be easy, Price said, for any White House official to determine who signed Nunes in.
Another former National Security official told NBC News Monday that intelligence reports containing communications intercepts would not be accessible from the House Intelligence computer system. The official said that Nunes would have had to go to the White House – or the headquarters of the CIA, NSA or another location to view that sort of intelligence.
Nunes has declined to say who provided the intelligence reports he referenced, but his admission that he met with his source at the White House is fueling suspicions among Democrats that his source was someone close to Trump.
"Through his bizarre and partisan actions over the last week, Chairman Nunes has demonstrated to the entire nation why he is unfit to lead our critical investigation into ties between President Trump’s Administration and Moscow," Rep. Jackie Speier said in a statement.
Nunes told Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake that his source was an intelligence official and not a White House staffer.
It’s unclear why Nunes would have to go to the White House to seek a secure location to view classified material, since his own committee has a secure room in the Capitol where Nunes and his aides review secret documents on a daily basis.
Democrats believe the president wanted to release the information as a way of buttressing Trump’s discredited claim that President Obama "wiretapped" him at Trump Tower during the transition. Moments after Nunes first made the announcement, Trump said he felt "somewhat" vindicated.
After saying he had seen reports showing that Trump and his team had been "monitored," Nunes on Friday backtracked, and acknowledged that he couldn’t be sure of that. Nunes has made clear that much of what he saw involved foreigner-to-foreigner conversations about Trump and his associates, and Nunes is raising questions about whether those reports were improperly distributed around the government.
Nunes has said he would share the information he reviewed with committee Democrats as early as Monday. House intelligence committee Democrats are slated to meet at 5 pm, according to Democratic aides, and Democrats are hoping to review some of the intelligence reports referencing Trump and his aides in their sensitive facility in the Capitol.
The president tweeted Monday night that the, "Trump Russia story is a hoax," and wondered why investigators weren't looking at his former campaign rival instead.
Though the White House has previously voiced concern over information leaks from anonymous sources regarding the Russia investigation in the media, Press Secretary Sean Spicer didn’t have that concern about Nunes' unnamed source.
"I think there’s a difference between a leak and someone pursuing a review of the situation that they have determined,” Spicer said, adding that Nunes is cleared to receive classified information.
Asked if he could be sure that Nunes source was not someone in the White House or the administration, Spicer hedged - eventually conceding “anything’s possible.”