Two White House officials played a role in providing House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes with documents showing President Donald Trump and his associates were swept up in surveillance by US intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
"In the ordinary course of business, national security staff discovered documents that we believe are in response to your March 15th, 2017 letter to the intelligence community seeking 'documents necessary to determine whether information collected on USA persons was mishandled and leaked, '" Spicer said.
Citing unnamed United States officials, the Times identified the White House official as "Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council".
Two White House officials reportedly helped House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes acquire the information he later made public, according to the New York Times.
Cohen-Watnick and Rep. Nunes both served on the Trump transition team.
Mr. Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who was originally brought to the White House by Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.
A Senate intelligence committee source said members view Nunes' claims as a "sideshow" and feel no urgency to run to the White House to view the documents.
The House panel's work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes' apparent coordination with the White House. "The White House needs to answer if this was a case where they effectively tried to launder information through our committee". In the letter, the administration invited him and Nunes to review National Security Council documents relevant to the investigation.
Only hours after Yates's attorney informed the White House that Yates would testify despite attempts to invoke "executive privilege" to gag her, Nunes cancelled the hearing at which she was to appear.
And the report said the intercepted communications are not related to the investigation into Russian influence, a point Nunes has stressed publicly.
Nunes has repeatedly sidestepped questions about who provided him the intelligence reports, though he pointedly has not denied that he sources were in the White House.
He added that his "smell test" remark was based on Nunes's words at the time.
"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".
A spokesman for Ryan later said the speaker was not aware of Nunes' source and continues to have "full confidence" in the congressman's ability to run the Russian Federation investigation.