During an appearance on MSBNC Tuesday, former national security adviser Susan Rice unconvincingly called accusations that she had requested that the identities of then-candidate Trump and his associates be unmasked in intelligence reports “absolutely false.”
MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell asked Rice if she had leaked the name of Michael Flynn, to which Rice responded, “I leaked nothing to nobody and never had and never would.”
Rice also denied a Daily Caller report that she had ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce “detailed spreadsheets” of contacts involving Donald Trump and his team: “Absolutely false. No spreadsheets — nothing of the sort,” she said.
But former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova, one of the Daily Caller’s sources for their report, said Rice’s denial “would come as quite a surprise to the government officials who have reviewed dozens of those spreadsheets”:
“What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals,” diGenova told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group Monday.
Other official sources with direct knowledge and who requested anonymity confirmed to TheDCNF diGenova’s description of surveillance reports Rice ordered one year before the 2016 presidential election.
Last month, Rice also denied any knowledge about the “incidental collection of intelligence” on Trump transition officials, telling PBS NewsHour host Judy Woodruff: “I know nothing about this” and “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.”
As she confirmed today, that denial has expired. Rice has pivoted to a talking point Obama defenders have been deploying repeatedly, as she told Andrea Mitchell:
There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking. The effort to ask for the identity of an American citizen is necessary to understand the intelligence report in some instances.
While her unmasking requests are legal, if there was no foreign intelligence value to the communications, her motivation for the requests becomes a pivotal issue. Andrew McCarthy at National Review explained why Rice making the requests makes no sense in terms of intelligence gathering, writing that it is “very likely that Susan Rice was involved in the unmasking of Michael Flynn”:
Understand: There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities — an intelligence need based on American interests — the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies.
The national-security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president’s staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests; it was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic-party interests.
Rice had admitted to Mitchell:
Yes, there was a pace of reporting that accelerated as the intelligence community got more and more information on that [Russia’s influence on the election] and shared it with U.S. officials.
However, according to Circa News:
[M]ost, if not all, of the intercepts, had nothing to do with the Russian election interference scandal.
Senator Tom Cotton, appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s talk show this morning, called Susan Rice “the Typhoid Mary of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.” He pointed out that she seemed to be in the middle of every foreign policy fiasco for the past eight years: Rice infamously propagated the Benghazi YouTube video fairy tale — designed to cover up their foreign policy incompetence during an election year — on five Sunday talk shows on September 16, 2012; and in June 2014, she notoriously declared on national television that Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl had served in the Army with “honor and distinction.”
Asked about Cotton’s comments, Rice said:
You know, I’ve been called a lot of things by folks on the right that are unfair and disingenuous. This is not the first. So I’m not going to get into each individual allegation or moniker that some might apply to me.
Asked if she would be willing to testify on Capitol Hill, Rice was noncommittal:
You know, Andrea, let’s see what comes. I’m not going to sit here and prejudge. But what I will say is that the investigations that are underway as to the Russian involvement in our electoral process are very important. They’re very serious. Every American ought to have an interest in those investigations going wherever the evidence indicates they should. I have an interest in that as an American citizen, as a former U.S. official. I would want to be helpful in that process if I could.