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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

On Monday, House Intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes lectured FBI Director James Comey for putting "a big, gray cloud" over the Trump White House. Two days later, Nunes floated a new gray cloud — this time over the Obama Administration.

Most extraordinarily, Nunes wouldn't rule out the possibility that the surveillance of Trump and his transition team was a politically motivated act by the Obama Administration. That's probably why Trump said afterwards that he now feels vindicated for his wiretapping tweet, even though Nunes still says Obama himself didn't order a tap of Trump's phone.

Bottom line: Nunes' actions today were extraordinary. They raise both substantive and political questions. Was Trump being inappropriately surveilled? Were they appropriately surveilled and inappropriately unmasked? And is Nunes risking his credibility as intelligence chair by giving the administration a giant political gift?

What Nunes revealed, shortly after he briefed President Trump at the White House:

  • Nunes says a person or people — he wouldn't give any more detail than that — brought to him intelligence reports that showed the Obama Administration collected communications related to President-elect and his transition team.
  • He said what he'd seen concerned him and we should have more information by Friday.
  • Nunes said the surveillance had nothing to do with Russia, was "incidental collection," and probably legal, which means Trump or his team were likely talking to an intelligence target or targets whose surveillance was approved by the FISA Court.
  • Incidental means the Trump folks were not the target, but by questioning whether the targeting was appropriate Nunes raises questions about political motive.
  • Some of these names — and he strongly hinted the President was among them —were "unmasked." That likely means one of 20 or so people on the NSA staff decided there was a reason to change the names of the Trump folks from "person A" to their actual name.
  • The intelligence reports naming the Trump team people are circulating around the intelligence community and Nunes doesn't know how many people have seen them.

What Nunes wouldn't reveal:

  • The names of the Trump transition team members under surveillance.
  • What was said in the conversations: "I think it [the surveillance] should bother the President himself and his team... because some of it seems to be inappropriate."
  • The names of the foreign targets of the surveillance. Evan McMullin, a former CIA operative who opposed Trump in the election, tweeted: "If what @DevinNunes says is true, Trump was communicating with persons of intelligence or criminal interest."
  • Who ordered the surveillance.

Go deeper

39 mins ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

1 hour ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

2 hours ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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