Susan Rice denied allegations that she “unmasked” the names of Donald Trump’s associates for political purposes during an interview on Tuesday. The former top adviser to President Barack Obama spoke to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in the wake of two separate reports on Monday which claimed that Rice had requested that the National Security Agency reveal the names of numerous associates of Trump during his transition.
“The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, ” Rice told Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”
Rice said she was “surprised” and “shocked” to learn that Trump was recklessly tweeting baseless assertions that the Obama personally ordered wiretapping of any kind. “That’s a very serious allegation, it had no basis in fact, and it wasn’t typical of the way presidents treat their predecessors,” Rice said of Trump’s tweet, to MSNBC.
As to the allegations of so-called unmasking by anyone in the Obama administration, Rice also made clear that “unmasking” does not mean identities become public. “I leaked nothing to nobody. And never would,” she said on Tuesday. “People seem to think asking for the ID of an American person is the same as leaking, and that is absolutely false.” Rice explained that the names are instead made visible within the intelligence report to those who have been authorized to read such documents.
Rice did add, however, that at times requesting identities are crucial to having a better understanding of the intelligence information, something she has the legal authority to do.
“I don’t have a particular recollection of doing that more frequently after the election,” she said.
NBC also further explained that requesting is different from ordering.
But NBC has learned that Rice didn’t — and couldn’t — “order” the unmasking of any American because only the agencies that gathered the surveillance (usually the NSA or FBI) can make that call and the process is subject to rules and reviewed by lawyers.
“I received those reports, as did each of those other officials, and 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 also denied the accusations that had a “spreadsheet” of telephone calls involving Trump officials, which was originally reported by the Daily Caller.
Watch Rice’s full interview with MSNBC below.