The White House gave a stark warning Friday regarding reports that members of President Donald Trump's inner circle may have been the subject of surveillance last year: keep digging and more "devastating" facts might be uncovered.
Press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the matter several times during Friday's White House press briefing after he was peppered with questions about Rep. Devin Nunes, who said last week he had seen evidence to suggest Trump's wiretapping claims were true.
"When [Nunes] came out initially and talked to the media, he made it very clear he had been looking into this, he had stated this much earlier than the president had ever raised this issue about surveillance and the unmasking of individuals for areas that had nothing to do with Russia and nothing to do with substantive intelligence or surveillance," Spicer said.
"So I think that as we continue down this path, if you begin to focus really on the substance, I think we see more and more a very, very troubling and devastating path."
Ever since Trump tweeted in early March that he believed Trump Tower had been wiretapped last fall, the story has seemed to triple in size on a daily basis. Nunes' visit to the White House complex on March 22 came under scrutiny because it's not entirely clear who let him through the gate, who showed him the classified information that allegedly showed surveillance was collected about Trump and/or his team, and why.
Spicer has said several times the media is too focused on the process and timeline of the story rather than the substance of the information being revealed.
On Friday, Spicer referenced comments made by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Evelyn Farkas, in which she seemed to suggest intelligence against Trump and his team was actively gathered before he took office in January.
"I think the substance of this matters, and what continues to come to light in terms of Obama officials admitting either off the record or, frankly, on the record consistent with what Dr. [Evelyn] Farkas says that there was clearly an attempt to do something politically motivated with the intelligence out there," Spicer said.
"The question is, why? Who else did it? Was it ordered, by whom? I think more and more, the substance that continues to come out on the record by individuals continues to point to exactly what the president was talking about that day on March 5."
Later in the briefing, Spicer had a somewhat tense back and forth with Glenn Thrush of The New York Times regarding the timeline of Nunes' White House visit and who was aware of his presence on the 18-acre campus that contains multiple buildings.
"You're playing cute there. … No, the [White House] chief of staff does not know every single person who is on the 18 acres at any given time," Spicer said. "No, we don't track every single person who is on the 18 acres. Do we know generally speaking who is in the Oval Office? Not all the time because people can go in."
In a story Thursday, The New York Times named the two people it believed to have met with Nunes. A Fox News report on Friday, however, cast doubt on that claim.
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