Did Nunes throw Trump a lifeline on surveillance?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," March 22, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: So the president also commented today on this extraordinary allegation unspooled by the House intelligence committee chairman, Congressman Devin Nunes, Republican of California, who alleged that he has seen official intelligence community evidence that some members of the Trump transition team, possibly including president-elect Trump himself, were swept up in a dragnet of legal but inappropriate surveillance. Then that was followed by statements from the ranking member on the intelligence committee. Let's look at how some of that unfolded today.


REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF.: I have confirmed additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. What I've read bothers me, and I think it should bother the president himself and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the president correct in what he tweeted?

NUNES: It is possible.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: The committee has still not received the intercepts or rather information that the chairman is referring to, and therefore it is really impossible for us to evaluate any of the merits of what the chairman has said.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I somewhat do. I must tell you, I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact they found what they found.


ROSEN: Charles, is President Trump right to claim some measure of vindication?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, we don't know. There's so much about this Nunes report that we don't know. We don't know what kind of communication was intercepted. I assume it was legal. I assume therefore it involved a foreign person, for example, an ambassador. He told us it had nothing to do with the Russians.

And this is not new. We have known, number one, that the idea that Obama ordered the tapping of Trump, there's simply no evidence for that. There has also been a second story that we have talked about continually which is that there appears to have been for sure illegal -- if not illegal, improper unmasking of Americans appeared. We know that is so because of the Flynn unmasking. What we didn't know until today is did that apply to others? Did that involve wiretaps that did not involve the Russians? We now know that was yes. But we don't know if this is listing in on Trump operatives, on Trump himself, or whether it's chatter by others about the Trump transition. Until we know about those questions, we are in the dark the same way the leading Democrat on the committee is in the dark.

ROSEN: Lisa, there were some veiled allegations lodged at Chairman Nunes today to the effect that he in his announcement today was effectively unmasking America, U.S. persons, perhaps including President Trump. And the Democratic National Committee put out a statement saying that the chairman was involved in, quote, "a protection racket for Donald Trump." Do you see Chairman Nunes at risk as a result of this announcement today?

LISA BOOTHE, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think it depends on what information continues to surface in relation to this. But there's been so much focus on the Trump administration, his allegations against President Obama and the Obama administration. But perhaps there should be a closer look at the Obama administration, because when you put the allegations of Chairman Nunes saying now we have the additional unmasking of U.S. citizens, the fact that there has been personal information with little to no foreign intelligence value that was widely disseminated. And then you put that in the backdrop of The New York Times article about the Obama administration rushing to preserve intelligence in relation to the Russia hacking. You also put in the backdrop of the Obama administration rushing to change the rules at the NSA to make the reporting more widely available, and it certainly does raise questions. So I think we don't know enough yet, but perhaps there needs to be a closer look at the Obama administration and what they were doing in the final days of the administration.

ROSEN: Steve, Lisa raises the point about this directive in the final days of the Obama presidency whereby the rules were loosened to allow NSA intercept information to be shared more broadly across the intelligence community. And I had one former high ranking official, Republican write to me today to tell me that in essence changing the rule in that way ensured that this kind of information would be spread more widely and therefore be more easily legally leaked as perhaps in the case of General Flynn. What have you discovered about the decision to change the rules governing how widely this stuff can be shared?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Not much. The reality is there is so much we don't know. This is an elaborate game of telephone that's taking place behind the scenes among senior officials, intelligence officials, political officials in both parties, and nobody knows much about what's actually happened here. That is what is so striking about this. I call me sources, you call your sources.

ROSEN: My sources are your sources.


HAYES: You call around and nobody can give you the full picture, and that is sort of the nature of what we are talking about here. This information, much of it is compartmentalized. Much of it is held within different agencies. It's not supposed to be widely shared. I think there are questions about why the administration did what it did.

The claims that Chairman Nunes is making today, he sort of implied that there may have been reverse targeting, that they may have sought to collect more on Trump-associated individuals by broadening the collection against foreign persons. There's the question about improper unmasking. Did that actually take place? But as of yet we haven't seen evidence of it.

And this is what I think is infuriating about this entire process -- these answers are knowable. Somewhere there is paperwork that can answer these questions and can answer them in an expedited fashion. We ought to see this. We are at a point when we're beginning to look like a banana republic. We need to have radical transparency on these questions and we need to have it now.

ROSEN: David?

DAVID CATANESE, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I would just say we should be clear, incidentally collected, which is what the chairman said today, is different than what President Trump's allegation was, was that Obama wiretapped. Now, I think that bears more questions, but Democrats are in a tizzy now.

To your question, we need more transparency, they are saying that Nunes went before television cameras and spoke to the media and is talking about classified information and that's wrong to go to the media first, not briefing. So now it's a partisan issue and they want a special commission. So I think there is a question within the intelligence community, within the political community, how much should they be revealing at these hearings? Should Comey have been more forthcoming? Are they revealing too much now? Is too much out in the ether on intelligence?

ROSEN: But what Chairman Nunes said today also threatens in essence to expand this entire matter beyond simply the Russian investigation. And we're not just talking about the unmasking and we're not just talking about the leaks, but perhaps what he calls inappropriate surveillance unrelated to all of that on the Trump transition.

Charles, we've got about 15 seconds. Do you have a problem with the way that Chairman Nunes handled this information?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, he is in a position that is utterly impossible. I think he should probably have spoken with his Democratic colleagues first, his committee first, and then perhaps the press and then the president. I'm not sure exactly what the rush was to go to the White House, but these are smaller matters. The big matter is, what is in the intercept? What is it that disturbed him? We have to know, and that's going to have to be released, the sooner the better.

ROSEN: The first entity that he should have reached out to with this information of course was me.


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