The ongoing saga of the Trump-Russia investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded or worked with the Russians to alter the presidential election took a new twist this week. It’s been fairly established that the Russians did indeed meddle in the election process, but that the Trump campaign was not complicit in asking for help or assisting in the mayhem. Now comes reports that former Obama National-Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been the individual responsible for unmasking the identities of several Trump campaign officials, including Michael Flynn, when they were heard on phone calls as part of an investigation following Russian intelligence officials.
Here’s a breakdown of what both sides are saying about the latest breaking news concerning Susan Rice’s roll in the Russia investigation.
Andrew McCarthy at National Review makes the case that Rice’s decision to unmask the identities of American citizens was done for political purposes to hurt the Trump campaign and transition:
The thing to bear in mind is that the White House does not do investigations. Not criminal investigations, not intelligence investigations.
Why is that so important in the context of explosive revelations that Susan Rice, President Obama’s national-security adviser, confidant, and chief dissembler, called for the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials whose identities and communications were captured in the collection of U.S. intelligence on foreign targets?
Because we’ve been told for weeks that any unmasking of people in Trump’s circle that may have occurred had two innocent explanations: (1) the FBI’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election and (2) the need to know, for purposes of understanding the communications of foreign intelligence targets, the identities of Americans incidentally intercepted or mentioned. The unmasking, Obama apologists insist, had nothing to do with targeting Trump or his people. That won’t wash.
McCarthy’s premise is that only the intelligence producers, the CIA, FBI, and NSA, are the entities that usually unmask identities of Americans caught up in foreign surveillance. For Rice to request this unmasking, and then share the identities of these people, such as Michael Flynn, meant it was being done for political purposes with the intention of leaking it to the press to further push the Trump-Russia connection despite no evidence of actual wrongdoing.
However, Rice vehemently denies that any of the unmasking which occurred was outside the normal realm of administration officials simply asking for more information about an investigation. The Washington Post reports on Rice’s response:
Former Obama national security adviser Susan E. Rice said Tuesday that she “absolutely” never sought to uncover “for political purposes” the names of Trump campaign or transition officials concealed in intelligence intercepts, and she called suggestions that she leaked those identities “completely false.”
“I leaked nothing, to nobody, and never have and never would,” Rice said in response to the latest charges and countercharges flowing from politically charged investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Since they first surfaced over the weekend, the Rice reports have quickly overtaken the steady drumbeat of revelations about connections to Moscow that have dogged President Trump for months. On Tuesday, the subject dominated cable news and flooded Twitter.
“RICE ORDERED SPY DOCS ON TRUMP?” the president retweeted, with a link to the Daily Caller and a Drudge Report headlined “Boiled Rice.”
A number of Republican lawmakers said that Rice should be called to testify before congressional inquiries into what U.S. intelligence has said were Russian efforts not only to roil the presidential race, but also to tip the scales in Trump’s favor.
My guess is that Rice will be called to testify, but that she probably won’t offer much other than the answers she’s already given. This is just the latest turn in the Trump-Russia saga, a story which seems to be ongoing in perpetuity.
More to come as this develops.