Susan Rice Explains Unmasking of Trump Officials

 

A subplot to the scandal of Russian interference in the 2016 election was the discovery that Obama Administration officials had “unmasked” the identity of certain Trump campaign officials in intelligence reports. The unmasking was later traced to Susan Rice, who was President Obama’s national security advisor at the time. The unmasking constituted a potential crime.

CNN cites multiple sources who say that Rice told House investigators in a closed-door session that she requested the unmasking to try to determine why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates made a trip to New York during the transition period. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met with several Trump transition officials including Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while in the US. last December. The Obama Administration was not notified of the trip by the UAE as is customary for visits by foreign dignitaries.

“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” said Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fl.), a member of House panel investigating the Russian interference.

The term “unmasking” refers to the practice of revealing the identity of American citizens who appear in the incidental collection of surveillance data where the primary target of the surveillance is a foreign national. Intelligence officials can request that the identities of the US citizens be “unmasked” in certain circumstances.

Judicial Watch had previously requested National Security Council records relating to the unmasking, but was informed that they had been transferred to the Obama Presidential Library. “You should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, Presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office,” the NSC response noted.

It is not clear whether the case is completely closed on Rice’s unmasking request, but her testimony goes a long way towards explaining the issue. There was also no indication of why the UAE did not disclose the visit by the crown prince to the Obama Administration.

Susan Rice Will Be No-Show For House Testimony, But Don’t Believe The Fake News

Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security advisor, was scheduled to testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in a closed-door session today. However, Fox News is reporting that Rice is no longer expected to make an appearance on Capitol Hill.

Rice was scheduled to testify in connection with the Obama Administration’s “unmasking” of Trump campaign members who appeared in intelligence reports. There were reports earlier this year that Trump campaign officials appeared in intelligence reports as “incidental” surveillance, meaning that they were not surveilled as a primary target. Intelligence may have been collected on Trump officials through interactions with the primary target of surveillance, such as meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak or Natalia Veselnitskaya.

When American citizens appear in intelligence reports, their identities are typically “masked” to protect their privacy. In the case of the Trump officials, Obama Administration officials, including Rice and UN Ambassador Samantha Power, allegedly ordered the unmasking of the Trump officials.

Rice was expected to face pointed questions about her role in the unmaskings. Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that he intended to ask, “Did you unmask the names and if so why?” Jordan also intended to ask Rice about her statements that an anti-Muslim video led to the attack on the Benghazi consulate in 2012.

Rice has denied any wrongdoing and told CNN last month that she testify before the intelligence committee. In May, she declined to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.

Fox News did not cite a reason for the schedule change.

Our sources report that the House asked for the reschedule, despite reports being spread that Rice asked for the delay. The reasoning is that Rice should testify the same day as Samantha Powers. Reports to the contrary are “fake news.”

At this point, there is no indication of when or if Rice’s testimony will be rescheduled. House committees do have the power to subpoena witnesses, but there is no indication that they are preparing to do so yet.

Susan Rice’s Tangled Web

William Goldman, the famous screenwriter of movies like The Princess Bride and All the President’s Men, once recounted the tale of a meeting he had with a movie producer in Las Vegas.  The producer was juggling phones and laying it on pretty thick trying to hype the movies he made and the stars he worked with, all while Goldman sat quietly by reading a magazine and waiting for the guy to finish whatever deal he was trying to close.  At one point, the producer stops dead.  He’s stuck–I mean, really stuck–his mouth moving but no words coming out, his eyes darting back and forth as he tries to sort out some unseen crisis.  Then quickly, urgently, he motions for Goldman to come over and help him out.

“Bill–Bill!‘ he says, his voice a raspy, desperate whisper.  “Which lie did I tell?”

The story neatly sums up the way business is done in Hollywood:  Never let a perfectly good lie go to waste.  It’s also a lesson that Washington has taken to heart, and why not?  Politics has often been called showbiz for the ugly, so it seems only fitting that they adopt the same business model.

Which brings us–again–to Susan Rice.

By now it’s pretty obvious that the former national security adviser to Barack Obama has a relationship with the truth that’s rather like the relationship Sid Vicious enjoyed with his girlfriend Nancy.  Her prevarications on the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans just ahead of the 2012 election were already the stuff of legend.  And yet somehow she managed to top herself when it came to light that Rice was the person who requested the unmasking of Trump associates who were being surveilled by American intelligence agencies.  That surveillance, which was supposedly conducted as part of a wider investigation into Russian contacts with members of Donald Trump’s campaign and transition team, is now the subject of a Congressional investigation.  But now, for some reason, Susan Rice–who apparently thought the matter so important that she risked the appearance of using intelligence assets for political gain–has nothing to say about it.

Here’s what CNN is reporting:

Susan Rice…declined Sen. Lindsey Graham’s request to participate in a judiciary subcommittee hearing next week on Russian interference in the US election, CNN has learned.

 

A letter obtained exclusively by CNN from Rice’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, outlines the grounds for her decision not to appear. It was addressed to Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, which is holding the hearing, and senior Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

 

“Senator Whitehouse has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham’s invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses,” Ruemmler wrote. “Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham’s invitation to testify.”

 

A source familiar with Rice’s discussions told CNN that when Graham invited her, Rice believed it was a bipartisan overture and was prepared to accept. However, Whitehouse indicated to her that the invitation was made without his agreement, as he believed her presence was not relevant to the topic of the hearing, according to the source.

Yes, I’m quite sure that Rice couldn’t wait to put in an appearance to clear the air. . .until she found out that the Sheldon Whitehouse hadn’t put his own SWAK on the invitation.  Perhaps Graham should have also dotted the i’s in his letter with little hearts and sprinkled some glitter on the envelope, asking pretty please with sugar on top to sweeten the deal.  After all, it is a hearing about the thing that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have been blaming most for her election loss.

Or could it be that Rice is having a little trouble remembering:  Which lie did I tell?

That’s the problem with spin.  Between the surveillance and the leaks, the dossiers and the unmasking, Rice and her compatriots from the Obama administration–many of whom are still holed up in the Deep State–have floated so many conflicting stories that even they can’t keep them straight anymore.  I don’t know about you, but with that kind of pressure I wouldn’t want to testify in front of a Congressional committee either.

Which is s shame, really–because there isn’t much doubt that the Russians really have been trying to monkey with our elections, and it would useful to know the full extent of their shenanigans.  It’s also becoming clear that there has been widespread abuse of the instruments of government, including our intelligence agencies, to further political goals.  Both of these present a real danger to democracy–and both need to be exposed.

NEW: Carter Page Named As Surveillance Target While Congressmen Deny Nunes Claims

There are two new developments in the story of the alleged “wiretapping” of the Trump team during the campaign. The name of the Trump associate that was the subject of a previously known FISA warrant was named and several congressmen are disputing Rep. Nunes’s claim that the intelligence community inappropriately unmasked subjects of surveillance within the Trump campaign.

The Washington Post reports that the FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant to investigate Carter Page as early as last July. The investigation was part of the counterintelligence effort opposing Russian interference in the election. The government claimed that there was probable cause to believe that Page was acting as the agent of a foreign power.

Page was listed as a foreign policy advisor by the Trump campaign in March 2016. In August 2016, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks called him an “informal advisor,” the Post notes. By September, when the investigation of Page’s Russia ties was known, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said that Page “has made no contribution to the campaign” and Kellyanne Conway claimed that he was “certainly not part of the campaign that I’m running.” In January, Sean Spicer described Page as “an individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”

In a February interview with the Los Angeles Times, President Trump apparently described his relationship with Page, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him. I didn’t talk to him ever. And he thought it was a joke.”

Carter Page denied the allegations against him in an interview on Tuesday. “This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,” he said. “I have nothing to hide.” No charges have been filed.

No charges have been filed against Susan Rice either. Rice was alleged to have improperly handled surveillance by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Nunes claimed in March that intelligence on Trump staffers appeared to have been legally collected, but was concerned that the identities of campaign team members unmasked and details that had no intelligence value were widely disseminated.

Now CNN reports that Nunes’s claims are being refuted by both Democrats and Republicans who have reviewed the same intelligence documents cited by Nunes. The unnamed congressmen said that the requests made by Rice were “normal and appropriate” for a National Security Advisor and that there was “absolutely” no smoking gun in the reports.

Rice has also denied any wrongdoing. “There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to — name not provided, just a US person — and 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 the information as to who the US official was,” Rice said. “The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false. There is no connection between unmasking and leaking.”

President Trump told the New York Times last week that he believes that Rice broke the law, but has thus far failed to provide evidence or have the Justice Department file charges against her. The president claimed that he would provide the evidence “at the right time.”

There have many conflicting claims and counterclaims in the surveillance scandal. The revelations that Trump aides were under investigation for their ties to Russia is an established fact that was known before the election. The identification of Carter Page as a target of the investigation is likely accurate as well. It is also possible that the investigation was not limited to Page.

The jury is still out on the matter of Nunes’s claim of impropriety on the part of the intelligence community. If there is evidence that Rice or other intelligence officers broke the law, then they should be prosecuted and a sanitized version of the evidence should be made public to support the extraordinary claims of Trump and Nunes.

So far there is no indication that any surveillance was conducted illegally or for purely political purposes. Even Nunes acknowledged that the intercepts of Trump campaign communications appeared to be an “incidental collection” that could result from communication with foreign nationals who are under surveillance. If this is how the intercepts resulted, then the FBI was doing its job.

The one person who has the power to clear up the entire mess is President Trump. The president has access to all the intelligence information available and the power to have relevant portions declassified and released to the public. So far, however, it appears that Mr. Trump is not inclined to clear up the situation.

Media Bias 101

After the November election last year, a friend of mine asked how many reporters know people with a pick up truck. It seemed a reasonable question. The pick up truck makes up the top three most popular vehicles in the United States. How many truck owners do political reporters know? You would have thought he had accused the American political press of prostitution. Members of the American political press were livid he would dare ask the question.

The American political press is one of the most insular institutions in America and hate being exposed for their insularity. They are mostly coastal, secular, if not flat out atheist, overwhelmingly liberal, and have nothing in common with nor want to have anything in common with the average American.

This past week has been a case study in that media bias starting with Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor. I have fond affection for CNN, having gotten my start in television there. Yes, I have seen firsthand liberal bias in their newsroom. But I think it often comes more from worldview and being inside a bubble than it does from aggressive partisanship. I think most of the anchors at CNN, particularly the further in the day one watches, do their absolute best to be objective, fair and cover all sides. If the network would abandon the Democrat Governor of New York’s more dimwitted brother for their morning show, the network as a whole would be improved. The people at CNN are some of the best and most professional in the news business.

But CNN did a real disservice this past week. Two weeks ago, Susan Rice denied unmasking any Trump transition team members. Her denial came as Republicans found more evidence that Obama Administration officials did seek the names of Trump transition team officials talking to foreign governments.

But just this past week, she reversed course but claimed it was not illegal and said she was not the leaker. Rice, however, has a sordid history with truth. She is the one who blamed the Benghazi terrorist attack on a YouTube video, which we all know was not true.

This brings me back to CNN. The network’s national security reporter is Jim Sciutto. After reports circulated Rice was behind the unmasking, Sciutto claimed sources close to Rice told him, “The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false.” He was personally dismissive of the allegations. Remember, though, Susan Rice subsequently admitted she had names unmasked.

Jim Sciutto used to be an Obama Administration official who left the Administration for a job at ABC News working with Susan Rice’s husband. Sciutto is one of many Obama appointees who went back into the media with the veneer of objectivity. Sciutto should have been conflicted out of coverage on this story, but he was not.

The Rice story comes as Republicans in Washington blow up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. On this story, CNN has been intellectually honest and one of the few to be honest. Read most any major newspaper or any news network other than CNN and Fox and you would never know Democrats actually scrapped the filibuster for Barack Obama’s nominees. All the GOP is doing is finishing the Democrats’ job.

Reporters who, when Democrats scuttled the filibuster for nominees, said it was no big deal, now argue that the Republicans are fundamentally destroying what makes the Senate unique. Of course, it is not just them. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on destroying the filibuster to advance her liberal agenda, now claims destroying the filibuster is a national travesty. The intellectual dishonesty is amazing. That the media is as intellectually dishonest on this issue as partisan Democrats is not surprising, but should be disturbing.

If the American media wants to restore its reputation, perhaps it could both relate better to the American people and stop giving partisan political appointees the veneer of objectivity. The American people need a media they can trust and instead have a political press that not only does not relate to them, but holds the people in contempt.

Unmasking Susan Rice

The walls are closing in on Susan Rice, or so it would seem based on reports that have been popping up in the news.  And in spite of CNN’s refusal to cover the story, the numerous questions that have recently arisen about Barack Obama’s national security adviser aren’t going away anytime soon.

Like many Washington scandals, this one started out as something completely different–the allegation that the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia to manipulate the 2016 election.  It was a meme that popped up immediately after Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidency, and had three main purposes:  First, it would deflect attention away from how terrible a candidate Hillary Clinton was, and provide an explanation as to why she lost what was supposed to be easily-winnable election.  Secondly, it would delegitimize Trump’s victory, and immediately force his administration to spend valuable time and political capital defending against a manufactured scandal.  Finally–and most importantly–it would slow and hopefully halt the Trump agenda, which consisted largely of dismantling Barack Obama’s legacy.

The media eagerly pushed this narrative by publishing materials leaked from the intelligence community, purporting to show illicit contacts between Russian nationals and members of the Trump campiagn, and later his transition team.  For some reason, however, the media and their sources never seemed to think that anybody would raise the question of how the intelligence community knew about these contacts in the first place.  That is, until Donald Trump issued his now infamous tweet:

All of a sudden the narrative changed, and the media had to change gears and prove that Trump’s accusation was more than false–it was downright crazy, and yet another example of how he was unfit for office.  But a funny thing happened on the way to impeachment.  It turned out that while there was no evidence that Trump Tower had been bugged, there was evidence that Trump and his associates had indeed been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies.  The initial spin was that the monitoring had been incidental, and only happened because foreign nationals (i.e., Russians) who had contacts with the Trump team happened to be under routine surveillance.

But the leaks published by the media called out Trump associates by name.  That information is supposed to be redacted to protect the identities of American citizens caught up in surveillance of foreigners–so how did it end up in the leaked materials?

Somebody unmasked them.  And that somebody, as it turned out, was Susan Rice.

Even though she initially denied knowing anything about Trump and his associates being monitored, she later admitted to Andrea Mitchell on NBC news that she did in fact request that their identities be unmasked.  She denied, however, that she leaked that information to the media, employing the rather unusual double-negative, “I leaked nothing to nobody.”  Make of that what you will, but it sounds to me like parsing words to give herself an escape hatch just in case she ever needs one.

And that day might be coming sooner than later.  Fox News is now reporting that the surveillance went way beyond intercepted phone calls:

“This is information about their everyday lives,” Rep. Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence committee said. “Sort of like in a divorce case where lawyers are hired, investigators are hired just to find out what the other person is doing from morning until night and then you try to piece it together later on.”

This isn’t incidental surveillance. This is looking more and more like the Obama administration used the intelligence resources of the United States to spy on a political rival. Even Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is expressing openness to inviting Rice to testify before Congress on the matter.  Wheather he really wants answers is debatable–but when the guy who has been running point on the “Russian hacked the election” story wants her in for questions, you know that the whole thing has gotten too big to ignore.

One thing’s for sure, though.  This scandal has taken on a life of its own.

When CNN Gives You Lemons…

Time for a little honesty–I actually have a certain fondness for Don Lemon.  He has an earnestness to him that’s really quite endearing, like an elementary school science geek who keeps an autographed picture of Bill Nye tacked up in his locker.  But he also knows how to party with the big dogs, as he so ably proved during CNN’s live coverage of New Years Eve in New Orleans.  With a gusto that could only be fueled by several shots of Pepe Lopez, Lemon answered the age-old piercing question (ear or nipple?) and came clean about how he might be hard to love, right before the producer cut off his mic for the night.  He might not have liked how 2016 turned out, but he sure ended it in style.

Which makes Lemon’s return to convention a little disappointing.  Sure, maybe the bow tie sets him apart–but what he’s serving up is just the same ole media bias twaddle, reheated like last week’s tuna casserole.  Case in point, his refusal to cover the story that Susan Rice, national security adviser to Barack Obama, ordered the unmasking of Trump & Co. when they were being surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies:

Let us be very clear about this. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team… was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president’s original claim. And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.

So if Lemon won’t insult my intelligence on his show tonight, does that mean he’s free to insult it another night?  Because that’s kinda the feeling I’m getting here.  Remember that this is the same Don Lemon who postulated that Malaysian Air Flight 370 might have been swallowed by a black hole, or perhaps the Bermuda Triangle–even though the flight disappeared over the Indian Ocean.  If all that wasn’t too wacky for him, you’d think this Susan Rice business would be a walk in the park.  At the very least, it’s less preposterous than suggesting to one of Bill Cosby’s accusers that she might have had better luck not getting raped if she’d only taken a bite out of his Jello Pudding Pop.

And lest we forget, it was the news media’s dogged pursuit of the “Trump colluded with the Russians” narrative–in which CNN and Don Lemon himself played significant roles–that led back to Susan Rice in the first place.  How’s he supposed to cover the part of the story he likes (Russians!  Hookers!  Golden Showers!  Election Hacked!) while ignoring the part he doesn’t?  And isn’t Lemon already calling attention to it by saying he’s not going to call attention to it?  Man, I can already feel my head spinning.

Or maybe that’s just the tequila.

Susan Rice Sought Trump Data From Intelligence Reports. Is This Why The CIA Wanted Ezra Cohen-Watnick Ousted?

Eli Lake has an explosive report on who in the Obama Administration was seeking Trump staffers’ names in intelligence reports. Turns out it was Susan Rice.

White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on “unmasking” the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”

Now, there is an interesting other nugget in Lake’s report.

The person charged with investigating the unmasking was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s senior director of intelligence. This is relevant because of this report from the Politico.

President Donald Trump has overruled a decision by his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, to sideline a key intelligence operative who fell out of favor with some at the Central Intelligence Agency, two sources told POLITICO.

On Friday, McMaster told the National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, that he would be moved to another position in the organization.

So the guy who uncovers Rice’s connection suddenly falls out of favor with the CIA, which pressures McMaster to remove him?

Hmmmm . . .

What are the odds of that?