Former White House national security adviser Susan Rice said Tuesday that allegations that she was responsible for intelligence leaks were false.
In her first public comments since reports surfaced that she had requested the “unmasking” of the names of Trump associates in surveillance reports, Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell she hadn’t leaked any of that information to the press.
“I leaked nothing to nobody,” said Rice, “and never have and never would.”
“To talk about the contents of a classified report,” continued Rice, “to talk about the individuals on the foreign side who were the targets of the report itself, or any Americans who may have been collected upon incidentally, is to disclose classified information, and I’m not going to do that.”
Bloomberg reported Monday evening that Rice sought the names of Trump transition officials whose communications were swept up incidentally during routine monitoring of foreign officials. As national security adviser, she was entitled to see the information. The fact that she asked for it does nothing to support President Trump’s charge that the Obama administration “wiretapped” him or his associates. But leaking the information to the media or using it for political purposes could be ethically or legally problematic. Rice said that none of the information was collected for political purposes.
Rice referred to a Daily Caller report that she had requested spreadsheets of phone calls between Trump and his aides as false, saying there were no spreadsheets of any kind.
“I spent hours with Michael Flynn during the transition,” said Rice when asked about her successor as national security adviser, “as it was my responsibility to try and provide him and other members of the Trump transition team with the best possible briefings I could as to what they needed to do to hit the ground running. We had very civil and cordial interactions, and he conducted himself professionally and I did the same.”
Rice also said that President Trump’s accusation that the White House had wiretapped Trump Tower had no merit.
“Absolutely false,” said Rice. “The intelligence community, the director of the FBI has made that absolutely clear. There was no such collection, surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals, directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals.”
When asked if she would be willing to testify to Congress, as Sen. Rand Paul demanded Tuesday, Rice said, “Let’s see what comes,” but that she wanted to help with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rice said during a PBS interview last month that she didn’t know what House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., was talking about when he said that Trump officials’ communications might have been “incidentally” swept up by intelligence agencies.
“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,” said Rice during the March 22 “PBS NewsHour” interview.
At Monday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer criticized the media’s “lack of interest” in the Rice allegations. He followed up on that during an off-camera session with reporters Tuesday, stating that the media was attempting to defend one side of the aisle against the other.
“More and more news outlets are reporting that there was something there,” said Spicer. “You saw former [Director of National Intelligence] John Brennan talk about if people were leaking this information it’s treasonous. You have questions about what was the motive behind it if it didn’t have intelligence value.”
“Why I’m saying that we’re going is a troubling path is what we continue to see is there’s a lot coming out that there was no value in this intelligence,” added Spicer, “so why was somebody unmasked if that’s the case?”
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