Trump sus­pects Rice of il­le­gal spy­ing on cam­paign of­fi­cials.

Pre­dicts scan­dal will erupt into ma­jor story for na­tion, world

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER Dave Boyer and Dan Boy­lan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Pres­i­dent Trump took aim Wed­nes­day at Su­san E. Rice, a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser un­der Pres­i­dent Obama, say­ing he thinks she com­mit­ted a crime by us­ing U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to spy on Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials.

Mr. Trump said the ac­tions by Ms. Rice, who re­quested that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency “un­mask” the iden­ti­ties of Mr. Trump’s as­so­ci­ates and per­haps Mr. Trump him­self when they were swept up in sur­veil­lance ef­forts against Rus­sian of­fi­cials, was “one of the big sto­ries of our time.”

“I think it’s go­ing to be the big­gest story,” Mr. Trump said in an in­ter­view with The New York Times. “It’s such an im­por­tant story for our coun­try and the world. It is one of the big sto­ries of our time.”

The news­pa­per pressed Mr. Trump on whether he thought Ms. Rice broke the law.

“Do I think? Yes, I think,” he re­sponded.

White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non also ac­cused Ms. Rice of politi­ciz­ing Mr. Obama’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil while ex­plain­ing his re­moval Wed­nes­day from the NSC’s prin­ci­pals com­mit­tee.

“Su­san Rice op­er­a­tional­ized the NSC dur­ing the last ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Mr. Ban­non said in a state­ment. “I was put on to en­sure that it was de-op­er­a­tional­ized.”

As na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Ms. Rice had the au­thor­ity to re­quest un­mask­ing of U.S. cit­i­zens picked up in sur­veil­lance op­er­a­tions of for­eign­ers, pro­vided there was a le­git­i­mate con­cern for na­tional se­cu­rity or the safety of the cit­i­zen.

With­out good rea­son, un­mask­ing could be a vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral pri­vacy pro­tec­tions and an abuse of power. Leak­ing the iden­tity sub­se­quently would be a crime.

The un­mask­ing of Mr. Trump’s as­so­ci­ates in in­tel­li­gence ma­te­rial dated back to al­most a year be­fore the elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Ms. Rice said the sug­ges­tion that she un­masked mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign or tran­si­tion team for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses was “ab­so­lutely false,” and she de­scribed the ac­tiv­i­ties as rou­tine.

In a March 22 in­ter­view with PBS, Ms. Rice claimed com­plete ig­no­rance about any un­mask­ing of Mr. Trump’s as­so­ci­ates, as was first re­vealed by Rep. Devin Nunes, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Per­ma­nent Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence.

“I know noth­ing about this,” she said at the time. “I was sur­prised to see re­ports from Chair­man Nunes on that count to­day. … So to­day, I re­ally don’t know to what Chair­man Nunes was re­fer­ring. But he said that what­ever he was re­fer­ring to was a le­gal, law­ful sur­veil­lance and that it was po­ten­tially in­ci­den­tal col­lec­tion on Amer­i­can cit­i­zens.”

Sev­eral Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have called for Ms. Rice to tes­tify un­der oath about the sur­veil­lance.

Democrats have ac­cused Mr. Trump and his al­lies of us­ing Ms. Rice as a di­ver­sion from on­go­ing con­gres­sional and law en­force­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion and claims the Trump cam­paign was com­plicit.

The pres­i­dent’s crit­ics con­tin­ued to in­sist that Ms. Rice’s han­dling of sur­veil­lance, which took place in prox­im­ity to the Oval Of­fice, did not but­tress Mr. Trump’s claims sev­eral weeks ago that Mr. Obama “wire­tapped” Trump Tower dur­ing the cam­paign.

Tommy Vi­etor, a former NSC spokesman un­der Mr. Obama, fired off a series of Twit­ter posts blast­ing Mr. Trump for im­pugn­ing Ms. Rice.

“If Trump says @Am­bas­sadorRice com­mit­ted a crime, that means he be­lieves of­fi­cials at NSA/FBI did too since they make un­mask­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion,” he tweeted. “Trump ac­cused @ Am­bas­sadorRice of com­mit­ting crime to de­fend some­thing stupid he tweeted. Think about that. Lit­er­ally act­ing like a dic­ta­tor.”

Mean­while, Capi­tol Hill kept the fo­cus on Mr. Trump’s ties to Rus­sia and al­leged con­spir­a­cies.

House Democrats in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion that the White House not al­ter any Rus­sian “sanc­tions, treaties, mil­i­tary aid or diplo­matic re­la­tions” un­til the FBI con­cludes its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Cheaters should never pros­per,” said Rep. Eric Swal­well, a Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee. “Un­til in­ves­ti­ga­tions are com­pleted and the Amer­i­can peo­ple know the full facts of the at­tack upon our democ­racy, the Trump White House should not be chang­ing our na­tion’s poli­cies to ben­e­fit Vladimir Putin and his gov­ern­ment.”

The res­o­lu­tion isn’t ex­pected to make to the House floor, much less pass, in the Repub­li­can-run Congress.

Mr. Swal­well ded­i­cated a page on his of­fi­cial con­gres­sional web­site last month to a graphic that mapped pur­ported TrumpKrem­lin ties.

He also of­fered an­other res­o­lu­tion call­ing for the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter, which has be­come a ral­ly­ing cry for Democrats.

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