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Need help understanding what Devin Nunes did?




Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (R) speak during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign on March 20, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (R) speak during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign on March 20, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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Devin Nunes, as a reminder, is a California congressman and the highest ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

That committee is trying to figure out if there was Russian interference in last November's presidential election.

Democrats and Republicans are on that panel – Nunes co-chairs it with California Democrat Adam Schiff – and members pledge to look for the truth regardless of whether it helps or hurts their own party.

This is where the controversy over Nunes starts (and this is oversimplifying things a bit, but hopefully gets you caught up to speed on some of the basics)

Tuesday evening, March 21st

It's a cool, clear evening on Capitol Hill in DC.

According to the Washington Post, Devin Nunes gets into a car with some aides to head to an event.

As they're sitting in the car, Nunes gets a phone call. It's unknown who was on the other end.

But Nunes hops out of the car, leaving his staffers behind.

Then, according to the Post, two congressional staffers see him get into another car and pull away. His own team – they don't really know where he's going.

A few minutes later, Nunes arrives at the White House grounds.

There, he meets with an unnamed source who gives him info that says, during the election, Trump and his aides were caught up in surveillance by the intelligence community.

The technical term is "incidental intelligence," which is when spies pick up information about a subject who are not the focus of their investigation.

For instance, intelligence agencies may have tapped into a phone call between two Russian diplomats and recorded them talking about Trump or one of his staffers.

That's pretty common in surveillance, and it's no smoking gun that Trump or anyone on his campaign was the target for eavesdropping

Wednesday morning, March 22nd

Devin Nunes calls a press conference outside the Capitol.

"First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition," he announces.

Then, Nunes heads back to the White House and talks, in private, with President Trump to share the details he knows.

Afterwards, Nunes emerges onto the White House lawn to speak to a gaggle of reporters waiting there.

"Today, I briefed the President about the concerns I had about incidental collection and how it relates to President-elect Trump," he said.

Almost immediately, Democrats and also some Republicans step up to call foul.

They say Nunes is the co-head of a Congressional investigation into ties between Trump and Russia, and he should've shared this info with his committee first instead of going to the Oval Office.

And remember, the President and his campaign staff are targets of that probe.

Wednesday afternoon and evening, March 22nd

Another California congressman stands before reporters – Adam Schiff.

He's the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He and Nunes co-chair it.

Schiff says to the press that, when Nunes bypassed the committee and shared info with the President, he put the entire investigation under a cloud.

"The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation," he says, "or if he's going to act as a surrogate of the White House." 

That same evening, Republican John McCain appears on MSNBC to say the whole thing has left him baffled and that the committee is dysfunctional.

"This just shows a tremendous chasm between the two senior members of the House Intelligence Committee," he says.

Tuesday, March 28th

Adam Schiff and other Democrats call for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.

"I think it would be in the best interest of the investigation going forward if someone else on the committee were to lead it," says Schiff in an interview with CBS.

Nunes insists he's done nothing wrong, and he indicates he'll continue to chair House Intelligence Committee and continue the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the presidential election.

But right now, the committee has no hearings scheduled, and even its standard meeting later this week has been cancelled.

And that's where things stand.