President Trump says that President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime by unmasking names of Trump associates in U.S. intelligence reports collected by intelligence agencies.
In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Trump was asked if Rice had committed a crime, he said, “Do I think? Yes, I think,” but he cited no evidence to support the claim.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” he said. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time”
Rice has come under fire this week amid reports that she was responsible for the unmasking of the identities of Trump associates. In an interview on MSNBC on Tuesday, however, she explained how requesting the identities of U.S. officials in intelligence reports was sometimes necessary to do for her job as national security adviser.
Asked if she sought the names of people or unmasked people involved in the Trump transition in order to spy on them or expose them, Rice said, “Absolutely not for any political purposes -- to spy, expose, anything.”
As Obama’s national security adviser, Rice said her job was to protect the American people, and in order to do that, she said she received a compilation of intelligence reports every morning from the intelligence community to provide her team with the best information about what was going on around the world.
“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,” Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “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 that information as to who that U.S. official was.”
She made clear that the intelligence community would authorize the actual unmasking once it was requested.
Whoever leaked the classified information regarding the unmasked names might have committed a crime. President Trump has been keen on tracking down any leakers.
On Tuesday, Rice denied being the person who leaked the identity of Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser: “I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.”
Flynn’s identity in transcripts of surveilled calls would likely not have been masked because as the national security adviser-designate, he would have been considered a high-level official who would not given the presumption of privacy. If Rice asked for names to be unmasked, those would have been lower level officials or those without specific titles.