Via Grabien. My goodness, some people certainly are quick to pronounce this a non-story after less than a day of reporting on Rice’s role in it, even though that reporting contradicts a statement she made on tape.
In fact, her story may be changing already:
Just in: "The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false." – person close to Rice tells me
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 3, 2017
Two weeks ago, Rice “knew nothing” about Devin Nunes’s claims of incidental surveillance and “unmasking” of Trump staffers. Now the claim is that she did nothing improper. (Only Sciutto knows who his source is, but conservatives noted on Twitter last night that he used to work with Rice’s husband at ABC. He may, in other words, be getting spun by the Rice household itself here.) You’ll find him in the third clip below pronouncing this “a story largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation.” Again: Rice’s role in this has been known for a day.
Mario Cuomo’s son/Andrew Cuomo’s brother went so far as to pronounce this “fake” news this morning:
This is how CNN opened its Susan Rice segment this morning. What an embarrassment. pic.twitter.com/LpVN9iIjqu
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) April 4, 2017
And meanwhile, stories like this are flying around:
Former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice ordered U.S. spy agencies to produce “detailed spreadsheets” of legal phone calls involving Donald Trump and his aides when he was running for president, according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova.
“What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals,” diGenova told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group Monday.
“The overheard conversations involved no illegal activity by anybody of the Trump associates, or anyone they were speaking with,” diGenova said. “In short, the only apparent illegal activity was the unmasking of the people in the calls.”
Nothing necessarily illegal about any of that, as the CNN reporters note and as I noted myself yesterday. So long as the Trump staffers weren’t the targets of the surveillance and knowing their identities was germane to understanding the foreign intelligence value of the phone calls, all of it is legal. In fact, Devin Nunes has already said that the surveillance he’s seen appears to have been done legally. The question is whether it was proper. Remember, Nunes also claims that the reports he saw had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. Given how vague the standards are to justify unmasking, it would be easy for Rice or others in the Obama administration to unmask Trump staffers for political reasons and then claim afterwards that they did it because it was kinda sorta relevant to foreign intelligence. And there’s the rub: Did Rice or whoever ordered this have legitimate intelligence reasons to unmask the Trump staffers or was their rationale for doing so as thin as Nunes claims? Did the unmasked reports need to be circulated as widely as they were for intelligence reasons or was that done simply to embarrass a political opponent? CNN might want to interview some people and report this out instead of screaming “fake news” after one day, no?
Let’s try this thought experiment, since I use it from time to time with Republicans about Trump’s actions: What would the reaction to this story be if the other party was responsible? If a top Trump natsec person with a reputation for dishonesty was accused of “unmasking” people who worked for the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign, would CNN wait a day and talk to some sources before declaring it a non-story? The question answers itself. They’re in the tank.