Politics & Government

Gowdy defends House intel chair after White House stop

By Maayan Schechter

Greenville News

Trey Gowdy speaks during a forum at Furman University
Trey Gowdy speaks during a forum at Furman University Greenville News

South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy defended Devin Nunes on Wednesday after the House Intelligence Committee chairman visited the White House to brief President Donald Trump on communication between transition officials that may have been intercepted in legal surveillance.

Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, told reporters on Wednesday afternoon intercepted communication between Trump transition officials, and possibly Trump himself, appears to have been caught up in legal surveillance and then improperly disseminated.

Nunes said the intercepted communication does not appear to be part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into contacts between Trump’s associates and Russia.

Gowdy, answering a question from a Greenville resident during a telephone town hall with Sen. Tim Scott, said Nunes invited him to the White House to meet with Trump, but didn’t go as he was unsure of what time the meeting would end.

Gowdy said he thought he knew “exactly” what Nunes shared with Trump, but wasn’t sure how much of that information had been made public, which he suspected had not been much.

“I think Chairman Nunes is understandably worried with the integrity of our surveillance programs,” Gowdy said, adding those programs are being “jeopardized by the unlawful dissemination of U.S. citizens’ names.”

Just two days ago at a House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey confirmed an open investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia, during which Gowdy used that time to grill Comey on leaks of classified information to journalists.

“Dennis,” a caller into Gowdy’s town hall, asked Gowdy what the difference was between a reporter writing about classified information and a private citizen handling that very same information.

Gowdy expressed his support for journalists, stating "we need a free and robust press." But, he called leaks a "moral issue" and said he needed help explaining why a person who delivers newspapers is held to a different standard than the reporter who wrote the article the previous night.

"I don't want reporters to go to jail," the Republican congressman added.

Another caller, identified as "Karen," asked Gowdy and Scott when will both congressmen forcefully speak up against hateful rhetoric made against the Muslim community and the more than 160 bomb threats made against U.S. and Canadian Jewish centers.

Gowdy, who mentioned he was planning to visit a synagogue in Greenville on the first Sunday in April, said he has made it a purpose to speak out against any group that is targeted.

Responding to "Karen's" mention that it appeared Trump's election and his administration were an impetus behind such threats, Scott said the aggression of anti-Semitism around the world did not start after the election, but a couple of years ago.

Gowdy and Scott also answered questions related to school vouchers and the House health care bill.

Caller "Emily," who moved from Oregon and self-described as a Democrat, asked what were both Gowdy's and Scott's plans to work across the aisle over the next couple of years.

Both described legislation they are working on with their Democratic counterparts.

"None of that makes news," Gowdy said. "The biggest shock is when I tell them (constituents) there's no arguing off camera. When you walk down the hallways here, you really can't see the bickering."

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