GOP Senate Intel Chairman: 'The Unmasking Thing Was All Created by Devin Nunes'

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice quietly met with congressional investigators on Capitol Hill today while the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he hadn’t broached the topic of the unmasking scandal “created” by his House counterpart.

Rice’s spokeswoman, Erin Pelton, said the former UN ambassador voluntarily met with the panel and “appreciates the committee’s efforts to examine Russia’s efforts to interfere, which violated one of the core foundations of American democracy.”

Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told CNN that the committee is “interested in any folks that were in the last administration that had some hand in what we did or did not do in response to Russian meddling in our elections.”

“I won’t get into when they’re coming or what the extent of the list is, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had everybody that was involved in decision-making at the last administration on our list, and they’re periodically coming,” he added. “Some have been in. Some still have yet to come in.”

What Rice did and didn’t know about administration unmasking of U.S. names in intelligence reports was not part of the discussion, the chairman said.

“The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes, and I’ll wait to go through our full evaluation to see if there was anything improper that happened,” Burr said. “But clearly there were individuals unmasked. Some of that became public, which it’s not supposed to, and our business is to understand that, and explain it.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes (R-Calif.) recused himself from the Russia investigation in April after a late-night White House visit and press conference the following day in which he shared unmasking allegations that had not yet been shared with the Intelligence Committee. He declared at the time that “the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power,” referring to the process by which certain government officials can request the revelation of the automatically obscured names of Americans picked up by incidental collection during surveillance of foreign targets.

At the beginning of June, Rice told ABC she was “confident” that documents requested by Nunes to see when she made unmasking requests “will show that I, like national security advisers before me, and other senior officials in positions of responsibility, whether at the State Department, Defense Department, or the intelligence community, were doing what we needed to do to do our jobs, which is to protect the American people, to protect classified information, to protect civil liberties.”

Burr and Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) have presented a unified front when it comes to agreeing on witnesses and moving the committee’s investigation forward. When President Trump asked senators to come to a White House lunch this week to lobby them on healthcare, Burr stayed behind on Capitol Hill, explaining that he won’t be going over to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. at all while the Russia investigation is ongoing.

Earlier this week, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also met with the Senate Intel committee behind closed doors.

Senate Intelligence Committee staff will interview Trump senior advisor Jared Kushner on Monday; the next day, he’s scheduled to meet with the House Intelligence Committee.