President Trump told the New York Times that former national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime by unmasking Trump associates who were mentioned on intercepted communications — though he offered no evidence to substantiate his claims.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump told the Times. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”
When asked if Rice committed a crime, Trump told the Times, “Do I think? Yes, I think.” He did not indicate what crime he felt she might have committed.
White House lawyers learned last month that Rice requested intelligence reports on people connected Donald Trump transition and campaign teams who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign officials by U.S. spy agencies.
Rice on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing, telling MSNBC, “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false.”
National security advisers can legally request the identities of Americans mentioned in intelligence reports, according to the Times, and veteran national security officials have said any “unmasking” request would require approval by intelligence agencies.
“Unmasking” is the term used about decisions to uncover people who were incidentally caught up in routine surveillance of foreign officials. These people are supposed to remain anonymous — when their identity is revealed, they are “unmasked.” U.S. intelligence agencies routinely do legal surveillance of foreign nationals thanks to a section of law in the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” generally referred to as FISA.
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough previously accused the New York Times of downplaying the story.