‘Tip of the iceberg’: Trump condemns Susan Rice for unmasking aides
President Donald Trump has taken aim at former national security advisor Susan Rice for unmasking members of his campaign team, whose identities were concealed in surveillance reports.
Trump ripped into Rice as he was leaving Florida Thursday, where he surveyed the damage of Hurricane Irma. He was asked about CNN reporting that she admitted to unmasking the identities of his top aides while tracking a foreign leader.
“She's not supposed to be doing that, and what she did was wrong. And we've been saying that, and that's just the tip of the iceberg,” Trump said, according to the White House. “What she did was wrong. Not supposed to be doing that. You know it. The unmasking and the surveillance, and I heard she admitted that yesterday. Just not right.”
Rice, who served as former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser during his second term, unmasked the identities of individuals on then-candidate Trump’s campaign team, in order to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was in New York last December, she told CNN Wednesday.
That account is at odds with Rice's initial response to unmasking and leaking claims brought forth by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) in late March.
During an interview with PBS on April 4, Rice said, “I know nothing about this,” when she was asked if Trump “and the people around him may have been caught up in the surveillance of foreign individuals and that their identities may have been disclosed.”
“I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today,” Rice said.
However, according to the Wednesday CNN report, crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan had a three-hour meeting with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, among others.
“No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything,” a senior Middle East official told CNN.
Other sources told the network that the Obama administration felt misled by the UAE after they allegedly broke tradition and failed to mention Zayed was traveling to the US.
Last week, Rice was called to testify before the House Intelligence Committee about her role in unmasking the identities of Trump’s top aides in redacted documents. CNN reported that Rice told investigators that she did not know the identity of the Americans who were meeting with the crown prince. She allegedly requested their names to be revealed internally only.
Florida Rep. Tom Rooney (R), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN that he was satisfied with Rice’s testimony last week.
"I didn't hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal," Rooney said.
Rice had also said in April that she had the authority to request the names of any Americans who were part of a US surveillance of foreign nationals.
“There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to — name not provided — just '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, according to CBS News.
“The intelligence community made the determination as to whether or not the identity of that American individual could be provided to me.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, (R-South Carolina) told the Daily Caller that there was “nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that Rice improperly unmasked the Trump advisers or disclosed classified information to the media.
“I thought she gave a very good accounting of herself, frankly, and I’d be the first to say otherwise,” Gowdy told the Daily Caller. “She answered every question we had and stayed longer than she was originally scheduled to say, and I can’t say that about all witnesses.”