Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Tuesday strongly rejected allegations that she improperly requested the “unmasking” of the identities of Trump associates whose communications were picked up in surveillance conducted by US intelligence.
“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”
Rice’s statement on Tuesday follows a report published in Bloomberg View Monday, citing anonymous intelligence officials who said that Rice requested the identities of certain Americans who were referenced in intelligence reports related to the Trump team. The identities of private US citizens are normally anonymized when they appear in intelligence reports about surveillance of foreign targets, but in certain cases, officials can ask for them to be revealed in order to provide greater context. Rice described this process as “longstanding” and “established,” but she said she could not discuss any specific unmasking that may have occurred.
The Bloomberg report landed amid President Donald Trump’s continued accusations that former President Barack Obama—Rice’s boss at the time—ordered illegal wiretapping of Trump and his associates during the 2016 election. Bloomberg noted that there is “no evidence to support that claim” and that Rice’s alleged “unmasking requests were likely within the law.”
Still, conservative media outlets and lawmakers have since jumped on the story as evidence of Trump’s assertions.
Smoking gun found! Obama pal and noted dissembler Susan Rice said to have been spying on Trump campaign.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 3, 2017
On MSNBC, Rice provided an in-depth explanation of the unmasking process, and argued that the previous administration’s actions were proper. “We’d only do it to protect the American people, to do our jobs in the national security realm,” Rice said. “That’s the only reason.”
When asked whether she leaked information from the intelligence reports to the public, Rice categorically denied the charge.
“There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking,” she said. “The effort to ask for the identity of the American citizen is necessary to understand the importance of an intelligence report in some instances.”
“I leaked nothing to nobody—and never would,” said Rice.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 4, 2017