The “absolutely horrific” leak of US President Donald Trump’s contentious 2017 phone call with then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull could lead to criminal charges.
Devin Nunes, the highest-ranking Republican member on the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, announced on Sunday he is sending eight criminal referrals to US Attorney General William Barr.
One of the referrals is aimed at finding out who leaked transcripts of Mr Trump’s January 28, 2017 phone call with Mr Turnbull, a call with then Mexican president Pena Nieto and former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with a Russian ambassador.
“You had conversations with the president of the United States and the prime minister of Australia leak,” Mr Nunes told Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures.
“You had leaks of President Trump talking to the president of Mexico leak.
“We all know the travesty of General Flynn.
“Nobody knows where those supposed transcripts came from.
“Those are just three examples that are absolutely horrific, but there’s things that are even worse that were leaked and there were only two or three reporters involved in this, so it would not be hard to get to the bottom of.”
The Trump-Turnbull phone call transcript leak to the Washington Post rocked the usually solid US-Australian alliance, with both nations going into damage control when it was revealed the president abruptly cut short the planned hour-long call to just 24 minutes.
The transcript showed Mr Turnbull pushing Mr Trump to support an asylum-seeker deal struck with former US president Barack Obama.
The call was Mr Trump’s last of numerous calls with world leaders that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin was a pleasant call,” Mr Trump told Mr Turnbull. “This is ridiculous.”
Mr Nunes said the eight referrals “are classified or sensitive” so he was unable to publicly offer details.
“Five of them are what I would call straight up referrals, so just referrals that name someone and name the specific crimes,” Mr Nunes said.
“Those crimes are lying to congress, misleading congress, leaking classified information.”
The referrals also involve alleged abuse by “numerous individuals” of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which involves surveillance warrants against suspected foreign spies inside the US.
Some Republican members of congress allege the FBI counterintelligence investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump election campaign, that led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was marred by lies and false information to obtain FISA warrants.