This Day in Trump, Day 65: Secret Meetings on White House Grounds; Trump Son-in-law to Testify in Russia Inquiry

WASHINGTON -- The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee reportedly traveled to the White House to meet with a “source” a day before announcing that President Donald Trump and his associates may have been swept up in surveillance of foreign nationals.The news is the latest twist in an already confusing saga involving the House intelligence panel, which is tapped with investigating the extent of Russian involvement in the 2016 election.Meanwhile, a White House official has agreed to testify before the Senate committee investigating Team Trump’s ties to Russia: His son-in-law, Jared Kushner.And a former vice president says any Kremlin meddling in U.S. elections could be considered an “act of war.”Highlight of the dayThis is complicated, so buckle up.California Rep. Devin Nunes, who leads the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian hacking in the election, is under fire Monday after confirming that he traveled to the White House the day before announcing he had reviewed information suggesting Team Trump had been swept up in Obama-era surveillance of foreign nationals.His office confirmed to multiple news outlets on Monday that he traveled to the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in order to meet with a “source” who showed him classified documents. A day later, Nunes announced the findings to the public before rushing to the White House to brief the president. He neglected to share the information with Democratic colleagues on the intelligence panel first, a failing for which he reportedly later apologized. As CNN reported last week, none of the findings suggested any conversations picked up by intelligence were illegally collected. Rather, they were protected by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Nunes said last week.The latest news is raising questions over whether Nunes, who served as an adviser to the Trump transition team, is colluding with Trump associates, and is heightening already simmering suspicions that he's unfit to lead an impartial investigation into Russia election meddling.According to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Nunes said he viewed the documents at the White House “in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source.” White House officials maintain they learned of his visit through media reports. But a former government intelligence official pointed out to CNN that Congress members must be cleared and escorted into White House facilities.White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday was short on details about Nunes’ meeting, saying: “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them.”Pressed on how Nunes received clearance and whether the administration, which has blasted “leaks” from federal agencies, plans to investigate his White House “source,” Spicer said “there’s a difference between a leak” which involves taking classified information and sharing it with reporters, versus sharing it with someone with a top-level security clearance.“Chairman Nunes is cleared. He's the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee,” Spicer said, according to pool reports. “Someone who is cleared to share classified information with somebody else cleared is not a leak.”Democrats have slammed Nunes as unfit to lead the House intelligence probe into Russian influence in the election. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House panel, has accused Nunes of providing partisan cover to Trump.This isn’t normalThe Russia news continues.Jared Kushner, husband to Ivanka Trump and the president’s senior adviser, has agreed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee following news that he met with the head of a state-run Russian bank currently on a U.S. sanctions list, as well as with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, during the transition.Several news outlets are now reporting that Kushner will testify about those interactions before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which -- along with the House and FBI -- is investigating the potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials or associates.Kushner first met with Kislyak and former NSA director Michael Flynn last December, The Wall Street Journal reports.It was Kislyak who eventually set up a meeting between Kushner and Sergei Gorkov, head of Vneshekonombank, or VEB. The U.S. levied sanctions against that bank in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, according to the WSJ.The White House says those meetings were part of Kushner’s job during the transition, as he handled contact with foreign governments.FlashbackFormer Vice President Dick Cheney -- who served under President George W. Bush -- says Russian hacking into the presidential election could be considered an “act of war.”During an appearance at The Economic Times’ Global Business Summit on Monday, Cheney urged Americans to not “underestimate” the weight of Russian attempts to “interfere with our internal political processes,” Politico reports.“There’s not any argument at this stage that somehow the election of President Trump was not legitimate, but there’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic, fundamental democratic processes,” he said, according to Politico. “In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war.”Texas tiesTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton has long been a champion for private property rights. But on Monday, the embattled politico announced he has no issue with Trump’s plans to use eminent domain for a "big, beautiful" border wall, Tom Benning reports.According to The News’ report, Paxton acknowledged legitimate concerns from residents along the Texas-Mexico border, adding that "these people need to be paid fairly." But he pointed out that eminent domain is used properly "all the time" in Texas for road construction and other projects.As attorney general, he made private property rights a central element to one lawsuit against the federal government over contested land along the Red River and another over a contentious water rights rule.Asked Monday about those past stands, Benning reports, Paxton said: "I know where you're going."Benning explains his change of heart in this story.Family tiesKushner will head a new White House office geared towards overhauling the federal government with help from business leaders, The Washington Post first reported late Sunday.The White House Office of American Innovation will oversee projects including updating the federal government’s aged information technology, as well as helping modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs, Spicer said Monday, according to the WSJ. The position will be unpaid.According to The Post, Kushner is working with Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff and others to use data and technology in a bid to infuse private sector efficiency into the government.But a remark Kushner made in that same article picked up steam on Twitter, as some took issue with his idea of “customers.” (Most aren't fit to post here.) “We should have excellence in government,” Kushner told The Post. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”  Continue reading...

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