In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he believed Susan Rice’s request to “unmask” Trump-affiliated individuals in intelligence reports during the final days of the Obama administration may have been a crime.
While he declined to provide details, Trump told reporters that he would reveal why he believed former President Barack Obama’s national security advisor may have broken the law “at the right time.”
The Wednesday interview came two days after Bloomberg revealed that Rice had requested the unmasking of individuals related to Trump in the reports, as well as a report from The Daily Caller that claimed Rice ordered “detailed spreadsheets” on phone calls made by individuals close to Trump.
While the interview had originally been scheduled to focus on infrastructure spending, Trump decided to focus on the Rice scandal instead, The Times reported.
“I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world,” the president said. “What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine.”
Trump also “cryptically” indicated there was more to come, according to The Times.
“It’s a bigger story than you know,” he said, adding that further information “in terms of what other people have done also” would be forthcoming.
“The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that,” Trump added.
“Unmasking” individuals whose identities are concealed in raw intelligence reports is not in itself a crime, and requests like Rice’s “were not routine, but also not uncommon” at the White House, a former CIA official under President George W. Bush told The Times.
But while the reports don’t prove Trump’s claims that his presidential campaign and transition offices had been under surveillance by the Obama administration, they do lend credence to a statement by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes that Trump officials had been included in intelligence-gathering efforts not necessarily targeting them.
It’s worth pointing out that it would be incredibly difficult to prove Rice committed any crime unless she leaked the names of anyone provided in the reports, something she vehemently denies.
However, Rice had also denied she knew anything about Trump officials being swept up in intelligence reports as late as March 22.
The revelation that that turned out not to be true also presents the possibility that the actions of both Obama administration officials and the intelligence community regarding Trump, while legal, were politically motivated.
“I’m not going to dignify the president’s ludicrous charge with a comment,” Rice said in a statement through a spokeswoman.
That’s likely to change, though. Susan Rice’s statements have a way of doing that.
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