The Transom, Ben Domenech, April 5, 2017
Susan Rice went on MSNBC yesterday where she did not deny requesting the unmasking of Trump aides and his transition team. http://vlt.tc/2sie Rice on leaks derived from that unmasking: “I leaked nothing to nobody. I never have and never would.” See here. 11 highlights of that MSNBC interview with Andrea Mitchell here. See here. The most notable: “There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request, the information as to who that U.S. official was.” Rice argued it was necessary for her and other officials to request that information, on occasion, to “do our jobs” to protect national security.”
“Rice admitted asking specifically for the names of members of Donald Trump’s transition team. She argued that she had not done so for political purposes, however. Mitchell asked: “Did you seek the names of people involved in — to unmask the names of people involved in the Trump transition, the people surrounding the president-elect in order to spy on them and expose them?” Rice answered: “Absolutely not for any political purposes to spy, expose, anything.”
“Rice denied leaking the name of former General Michael Flynn. “I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have, and never would.” She added that to discuss particular targets would be to reveal classified information. She later walked back her denial. Mitchell: “The allegation is that you were leaking the fact that he spoke to the [Russian] ambassador and perhaps to others.” Rice: “I can’t get into any specific reports … what I can say is there is an established process.”
The real question here is what Rice was trying to do, and whether there was any justification for what she did that was not a nefarious abuse of government power. On that point, Mollie Hemingway has more. See here. “Two weeks ago, PBS’ Judy Woodruff asked Rice a very general question about Nunes’ claims:
“JUDY WOODRUFF: I began by asking about the allegations leveled today by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that Trump transition officials, including the president, may have been swept up in surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.”
“SUSAN RICE, Former U.S. National Security Adviser: I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.”
“I know nothing about this, she said.
“Yesterday, in a damage control interview with prominent Democratic journalist Andrea Mitchell, Rice admitted her unmasking efforts and said they were routine. Mitchell’s 16-minute interview involved no tough questions. Mitchell asked, “Did you seek to unmask the names of people involved in the Trump transition?” Rice responded in the Clintonian fashion, “Absolutely not for any political purposes.” A natural follow-up would have been if she requested the unmasking for any other purpose. It didn’t occur to Mitchell. Instead she followed-up with the related question, “Did you leak?” to which Rice responded, somewhat confusingly, “I leaked nothing to nobody.”
“Somehow Rice tried to claim later that her initial statement of having no clue about Nunes’ earlier claim was not at odds with her 16-minute answer about her unmasking efforts…
“When Nunes first alerted the public about his concerns over the unmasking and dissemination, he noted that the information had nothing to do with Russia and had little to no intelligence value. Lake reported that Rice’s multiple unmasking requests were related to reports on Trump transition activities. She is said to have requested the identities of Americans in reports of monitored conversations between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition and in surveilled contact between the Trump team and monitored foreign officials.
“One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration,” according to Lake.
“When Rice gave her interview to the friendly journalist Mitchell, she gave a hypothetical example of when it would be appropriate to request an unmasking of a U.S. citizen’s name that was caught up in foreign surveillance. She said that if two foreigners were talking about a terrorist attack to be committed with a U.S. citizen, she would seek out that name. That’s a great hypothetical. And no one is making the claim that Susan Rice sought to unmask a Trump family member or transition member’s name because she believed they were about to set off a bomb. They are making the claim that the information in the reports was politically valuable and related to the Trump transition.”