Susan Rice will testify before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session next month as part of its investigation into the unmasking of Trump campaign members during the U.S. election last year, CNN reported late Thursday.
According to CNN, Rice has agreed to answer the committee’s questions before they depart for their August recess.
“Ambassador Rice is cooperating with bipartisan Russia investigations conducted by the Intelligence Committees as she said she would,” said Erin Pelton, a spokesperson for Rice, who served as national security adviser and the US ambassador to the United Nations under Obama.
The move comes as both the House and Senate inquiries begin to take shape, with high-profile witnesses expected to appear behind closed doors before lawmakers depart for their August recess.
On the Senate side, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have sent Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein a letter requesting copies of its applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to spy on Trump associates tied to its Russia investigation.
“As to FISA warrants, I want to know was there ever a warrant issued against anybody in the Trump world?” Graham told CNN Thursday. “Was there proble cause found by a judge that would allow a warrant to be issued, and if that person was surveilled, did anything come of it?”
Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sent subpoenas to the CIA, FBI, and NSA late last month requesting details about any unmasking requests made by Rice, former UN ambassador Samantha Power, and former CIA director John Brennan in 2016 and January 2017.
CNN reports that “it’s unclear if Nunes — who stepped aside from leading the Russia probe amid controversy — will participate in the interview of Rice,” but Texas Congressman Mike Conaway, who took over, told reporters last week that Nunes’s unmasking oversight is separate from the Russia investigation.
Two weeks after Nunes took a secret trip to the White House grounds to review intelligence about unmasking, Bloomberg reported that Rice had “unmasked” the names of Trump transition aides in classified reports. Three days after Rice’s name was revealed, Nunes became the subject of a House ethics probe into whether he revealed classified information and was forced to step aside from leading the House Russia investigation.
Rice has denied doing anything wrong, telling MSNBC in April, “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false.”
Rice declined an invitation from Graham, who is helping lead the Senate judiciary committee’s Russia investigation, through her lawyer, because the top Democrat on that probe, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, opposed the invite.
At the time, Trump took to Twitter to take aim at Rice.
“Susan Rice, the former National Security Advisor to President Obama, is refusing to testify before a Senate Subcommittee next week on allegations of unmasking Trump transition officials. Not good!” Trump tweeted in May.
Republicans and Democrats on the House Russia probe have been inviting witnesses largely aligned with their partisan stances in the investigation. Republicans invited former Obama Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas earlier this week because they believe she leaked classified information about the federal investigation of the Trump campaign. Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta also testified this week to discuss how his emails were hacked and then released by Wikileaks in the final month of the 2016 election.
On Fox News Thursday evening, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra and Fox News contributor Juan Williams joined Martha MacCallum for a discussion on the unmasking probe.
Hoekstra said, “Lyndsey Graham…you’ve got Rand Paul…cannot get an answer to a very simple question. Were they targeted? Were they unmasked? Hopefully, we’ll get answers to those questions and also, hopefully, we’ll get a better insight as to exactly what the Russians were planning to do in the 2016 election.”
The former congressman threw cold water on the notion that any damning revelations will come out of the session.
“The question here will be, who was unmasked [and] why they were unmasked,” he said. “It’s going to be very difficult I think to reach a conclusion that the unmasking was done for illegal purposes. There may be suspicions, but again, people will look at the same information and two groups will come to very different conclusions.”
Martha MacCallum made a key point. The unmasking probe, she said, “is the only area of this Russia probe so far that has the potential for a discovery of an illegal act.”