Susan Rice, the former national security adviser to Obama, privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials so that she could understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York last year, according to sources reporting to CNN.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December just as Trump was transitioning into the White House. He met with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon.
Obama and his administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates because they had not mentioned that Zayed was coming to America. It is customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the U.S. government when they are traveling within the country.
Rice, serving as the national security adviser, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she asked for the names of the Americans involved in the classified report to be revealed internally.
Rice’s explanation may have satisfied some top Republicans on the committee. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida) said, “I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal.” This will not sit well with both Trump and Devin Nunes, the former chairman of the committee. Trump has previously accused Rice of committing a crime through her unmasking of names.
Multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that the meeting between Zayed Flynn, Kushner and Bannon lasted three hours and focused on issues that included Iran, Yemen, the Mideast peace process and some say opening up a back-channel with Russia.
This meeting in the Trump Tower came shortly before the UAE hosted a secret meeting to open lines of communications with the U.S. and Russia in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, according to reports by CNN and The Washington Post. That meeting is now being investigated on Capitol Hill.
A senior Middle East official denied that the UAE was misleading the Obama administration. “The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team’s view of the region and sharing the UAE’s view of the region and what the US role should be,” the official said. “No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything.”
Rice was called on to testify before the House Intelligence Committee for what was believed to be an abuse in the practice of “unmasking” the identities of Americans who were communicating with foreign officials and were under surveillance by the U.S. intelligence community. Rice denied that she leaked classified information to the press. Her concern about the reason behind the crown prince’s visit to America without proper channels being followed will most likely keep her opposition at bay. Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is also leading the House investigation, told the Daily Caller “nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that she improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates or leaked it to the press.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not indicate whether Trump still believes that Rice broke the law, but she did say that the issue of leaking and unmasking needed to be investigated.
“We’ve seen illegal leaking of classified materials, including the identities of American citizens, unmasked in intelligence reports,” Sanders told CNN. “That’s why the President called for Congress to investigate this matter and why the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community are doing all they can to stamp out this dangerous trend that undermines our national security.”
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who took over the investigation for Nunes, said about Rice, “She was a good witness, answered all our questions. I’m not aware of any reason to bring her back.”
What do you think about the rationale that Rice describes regarding “unmasking” the names of Trump officials?
Credit: CNN Politics