Rice de­nies wrong­do­ing, po­lit­i­cal mo­tives, schemes

Se­nate probe may ask her to tes­tify re­gard­ing elec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAN BOY­LAN AND GUY TAY­LOR Tom How­ell con­trib­uted to this re­port.

For­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san E. Rice cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied Tues­day that she did any­thing wrong by un­mask­ing the iden­ti­ties of Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials swept up in U.S. sur­veil­lance, while the Repub­li­can chair­man of a Se­nate probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion said his panel may want her to tes­tify.

Ms. Rice did not ex­plic­itly deny hav­ing re­quested that names be added to raw sur­veil­lance in­tel­li­gence re­lat­ing to Trump as­so­ci­ates. But she pushed back hard against in­sin­u­a­tions that her ac­tions were po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated or tied to any or­ga­nized scheme to com­pile dirt on the Trump cam­paign.

“The al­le­ga­tion is that some­how Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials uti­lized in­tel­li­gence for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses,” she said in an in­ter­view on MSNBC. “That is ab­so­lutely false.”

Her com­ments came a day af­ter The Wash­ing­ton Times and oth­ers ver­i­fied a Bloomberg View re­port that Ms. Rice had re­quested the “un­mask­ing” — the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of Amer­i­cans whose names would have oth­er­wise been redacted in in­tel­li­gence re­ports — of Trump of­fi­cials on dozens of oc­ca­sions.

The reve­la­tion has added a fresh twist to an in­creas­ingly heated de­bate in Wash­ing­ton over the ex­tent to which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s han­dling of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion should be­come the fo­cus of con­gres­sional probes into Rus­sian med­dling in last year’s elec­tion.

Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Burr in­di­cated Tues­day that he may want to hear more details from Ms. Rice. “The com­mit­tee will fol­low the facts where they lead,” a spokesman for the North Carolina Repub­li­can said, as pres­sure mounted from other in­flu­en­tial GOP law­mak­ers to call for Ms. Rice to tes­tify un­der oath.

“When it comes to Su­san Rice, you need to ver­ify, not trust,” Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham told Fox News on Tues­day. “I think ev­ery Amer­i­can should know whether or not the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser to Pres­i­dent Obama was in­volved in un­mask­ing Trump tran­si­tion fig­ures for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.”

Ms. Rice, who also served as the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s U.N. am­bas­sador, has a rep­u­ta­tion across Wash­ing­ton as tough, com­bat­ive fig­ure. Pun­dits noted that her in­ter­view on Tues­day re­sem­bled a rhetor­i­cal dance, as she seemed at points to im­ply that she had, in­deed, re­quested the iden­ti­ties of blacked-out Trump team names in the in­tel­li­gence re­ports.

“There were oc­ca­sions when I would re­ceive a re­port in which a U.S. per­son was re­ferred to, name not pro­vided,” Ms. Rice told host Andrea Mitchell. “Some­times in that con­text in or­der to un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of the re­port and as­sess its sig­nif­i­cance, it was nec­es­sary to re­quest the in­for­ma­tion as to who that per­son was.”

To pro­tect na­tional se­cu­rity, Ms. Rice said, her job of­ten re­quired her to learn the iden­tity of masked U.S. of­fi­cials. She added that while there was a spike in raw in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion dur­ing the elec­tion, she said she didn’t re­call a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in un­mask­ing dur­ing that time.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion cast doubt on her state­ments Tues­day.

White House Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer de­clined to spec­u­late on whether Ms. Rice should be called for con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony, but ar­gued that her com­ments seemed con­tra­dic­tory.

Mr. Spicer pointed to an ap­pear­ance Ms. Rice had made on PBS “Newshour” last month, dur­ing which she fielded ques­tions about House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Repub­li­can chair­man Rep. Devin Nunes’ reve­la­tion that Trump as­so­ci­ates had been in­ci­den­tally swept up in U.S. sur­veil­lance of for­eign tar­gets and un­masked.

“She was the one who went out and said, quote, that she had noth­ing to do with this on a pro­gram a few weeks ago,” Mr. Spicer said. “Now you see more and more re­ports.”

By day’s end Tues­day, the fast-paced story around the Rus­sian med­dling and in­tel­li­gence probes had spun off in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, with the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee’s top Demo­crat say­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump had ac­tu­ally praised his work last week at the White House.

In an in­ter­view with Ya­hoo News, Rep. Adam Schiff said, “The pres­i­dent be­gan the meet­ing last Fri­day by say­ing, ‘So, are you get­ting to see ev­ery­thing you wanted?’ And I said, ‘Ac­tu­ally, no — we have this is­sue,’ and I de­scribed what it was, and he said, ‘Well I’m fine with your staff see­ing the doc­u­ments — I have no prob­lem with that.’”

The doc­u­ments Mr. Trump re­ferred to are the same doc­u­ments Mr. Nunes had ear­lier seen, and the same doc­u­ments Ms. Rice is now in the spot­light over.

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