Trump team 'incidentally monitored' after election

Mr Trump has made unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump TowerImage copyright

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Mr Trump has made unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower

Post-election communications of Donald Trump’s team were swept up in an “incidental collection” by intelligence agencies, a Republican lawmaker says.

House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes said he was “concerned” whether this may have amounted to spying on the team.

He said what was collected was “widely disseminated” in intelligence reports.

He said the collection was apparently legal and was brought to his attention, also legally, by an unnamed source.

The collection of information was not believed to be linked to an FBI investigation into alleged links between the Trump team and Russian officials during the election campaign.

Mr Nunes said it was “possible” Mr Trump’s own communications were collected.

Analysis: BBC North America correspondent Anthony Zurcher

US intelligence agencies regularly monitor foreign individuals of interest, so if a member of the Trump transition team – or Donald Trump himself – communicated with a person under surveillance, it’s likely those interactions would be recorded.

That would constitute “incidental”, legal surveillance as described by Devin Nunes in his press conference on Wednesday afternoon. What that means, however, is open to interpretation.

Trump supporters may point to this “startling revelation”, in press secretary Sean Spicer’s words, as evidence that the president correctly suspected his communications were being intercepted. They will also probably question who “unmasked” the names of Trump advisers, when the default is to avoid revealing the identities of US citizens communicating with monitored foreign nationals.

Mr Trump’s critics are sure to wonder what kind of interactions the Trump team was having with individuals worthy of US intelligence surveillance. Were these communications authorised, and what topics did they cover? It was just such intelligence intercepts that revealed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been lying about the nature of his phone discussions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after all.

This story is like a spinning top, impossible to know which way it will next turn.

He said the collection took place mainly in November, December and January.

Mr Nunes said: “Details about US persons involved in the incoming administration with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reports.”

Mr Nunes said he had informed House Speaker Paul Ryan and would inform the White House later on Wednesday.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said this was a “startling revelation” and that there were “a lot of questions that need to get asked; how many times was one individual followed? Did their names get unmasked and why?”

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He said that US citizens under such surveillance should have their names protected.

But he said he was unaware what Mr Nunes was going to say.

“We don’t know what he’s coming up here to explain and share,” Mr Spicer said.

It was unclear if any of the monitoring Mr Nunes reported had taken place in Trump Tower.

Mr Trump has made unsubstantiated accusations against his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the presidential race.

There has been no evidence that this took place.

Trump campaign advisers are currently the subject of an FBI investigation and two congressional inquiries.

Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates co-ordinated with Moscow to interfere in the 2016 presidential election campaign to damage Mr Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

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