Susan Rice denies claims she requested identities of Trump officials mentioned in intelligence reports on Russian interference: ‘I leaked nothing to nobody’
Susan Rice, the national security adviser in the Obama administration, has denied claims that she made politically motivated requests for names of Trump officials mentioned in intelligence reports on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Rice also denied she then leaked those names to the press.
“I leaked nothing to nobody. I never have and never would,” Rice told MSNBC News. “It is absolutely false that Obama officials used intelligence for political purposes.”
The White House has seized on a Bloomberg report on Monday that she requested the identities of US nationals referred to in raw intelligence reports “on dozens of occasions”, arguing it added weight to Donald Trump’s continuing claims that he and his camp were spied on by the Obama administration.
Rice said on Tuesday that she and other officials would sometimes request the identity of unnamed Americans when they came up in an intelligence report when necessary to understand the significance of the report.
She would not say whether she had made any such request during the intelligence investigation of Russian hacking of the election that was under way in the last weeks of the Obama administration.
“What I would do, or what any official would do, would be to ask the briefer whether the intelligence committee would go through its process – and there is a longstanding established process – to decide whether that information as to who the identity of the US person was, could be provided to me,” Rice said. “So they take that question back. They put it through a process and the intelligence committee made the determination as to whether or not the name of that American individual could be provided to me.”
When permitted, the identity of the person caught up in an intelligence operation would be reported back only to the official who requested it, and would not be widely disseminated, the former national security adviser said.
“The notion which some people are trying to suggest that asking for the identity of an American person is the same as leaking it – that is completely false,” Rice said. “There is no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.”
The Trump administration and its supporters are seeking to reframe an ongoing FBI and congressional investigation of possible collusion between the Trump associates and Moscow, as a political spying scandal in which the Trump team was put under surveillance at Obama’s request. That claim, repeated frequently by the president, has been rejected as groundless by the FBI and intelligence chiefs, as well as the Republican congressional leadership.
The White House has been hit in recent days by a string of new revelations about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. On Monday Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, admitted he met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him with documents about the energy industry.
The Russian, Victor Podobnyy, was one of three men charged in connection with a cold war-style Russian spy ring. According to the court documents, Podobnyy tried to recruit Carter Page, an energy consultant working in New York at the time, as an intelligence source. Page is referred to in the filing as Male-1.
Page confirmed to BuzzFeed News, which first reported on the filings, that he was Male-1.
Page acknowledged in a statement on Monday night that he “shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents” with Podobnyy. He described the information as “nothing more than a few samples from the far more detailed lectures” he delivered at New York University in 2013.
“The real story turns out to be SURVEILLANCE and LEAKING! Find the leakers,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Sunday.
Page’s contacts with Podobnyy happened about three years before Trump listed him as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign. Trump and his advisers have been vague about how Page became connected with the campaign.
The court filings include a transcript of Podobnyy speaking with Igor Sporyshev, who was also charged in the spy ring, about Page.
“I like that he takes on everything,” Podobnyy says. “For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot.”