CNN: Susan Rice unmasked Trump officials last year to find out who was meeting with the UAE

CNN: Susan Rice unmasked Trump officials last year to find out who was meeting with the UAE

Hard to tell without more information whether there was a legitimate national security purpose behind this or improper partisan curiosity about what the incoming administration was up to. Three facts of note, though. One: The crown prince of the UAE supposedly broke with protocol in not giving the Obama White House a heads up that he was coming to the U.S. That in itself might have alarmed natsec people. Two: The UAE was the go-between for the Trump transition team and the Kremlin in arranging a back-channel meeting in the Seychelles before Trump was sworn in. That meeting happened after the crown prince met with Trump staffers in mid-December and CNN’s sources don’t know if Rice said anything about it in her testimony before the House Intel Committee. But it’s possible that Obama’s team had gotten wind of a back-channel involving the UAE in the works and wanted to know more when they found out the crown prince was in the U.S., to see if the Emirates were helping to undermine Obama’s foreign policy.

Three, most surprisingly: No fewer than three House Republicans, including Trey Gowdy, praised Rice’s testimony afterward. Whatever she told them, it appears that nothing she said raised the alarm that she was unmasking people for partisan political reasons.

The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.

The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common…

“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican helping to lead the panel’s Russia invesigation, told CNN of Rice’s testimony. He declined to discuss any of the contents of her classified remarks.

“She was a good witness, answered all our questions,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, the main in charge of the House committee’s Russia probe. Said Gowdy, when asked by the Daily Caller if Rice had unmasked anyone for illicit reasons, “there was nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that. He continued, “I thought she gave a very good accounting of herself, frankly, and I’d be the first to say otherwise.” That doesn’t mean the “unmasking” controversy ignited by Devin Nunes months ago is over — there’s still a puzzle over why Samantha Power, of all people, was allegedly unmasking Trump officials — but Rice was a prime target for the investigation given her position near the top of the natsec pyramid. If she’s not guilty of impropriety, was anyone else? Remember what Richard Burr, another Republican with major natsec responsibilities said in July: “The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes.” Hmmmm.

Also, if you’re of the mind that House Republicans are in cahoots here with Rice to make Team Trump look bad, why couldn’t they concoct a more damning alibi for her than that she was interested in what a UAE royal was up to? The way to stick it to Trump would have been for Rice to say that she had reason to believe the transition team was secretly meeting with Russian agents. Meeting with the crown prince wouldn’t even qualify as a Logan Act violation (which would never be prosecuted anyway) unless it could be proved that Manafort et al. were trying to undercut Obama’s policy somehow.

By the way, in other intel-probe news today, Bob Mueller is reportedly looking hard at Mike Flynn’s son for his work at his father’s lobbying firm and is treating Flynn Jr as a “subject” of the investigation, i.e. a potential target for criminal charges. Why would Mueller be interested in what are probably ancillary crimes, if any, to what he’s really interested in? For leverage, of course:

Flynn Sr might be proving to be a tough nut for Mueller’s team to crack, notwithstanding his apparent interest in an immunity deal for testimony months ago. Threatening him with charges to get him to roll over on Trump, Manafort, Kushner, and/or whoever might not scare him. Threatening his kid with charges could be a different matter. Mueller has reportedly been trying to squeeze Manafort too, so playing hardball with the Flynns in this way would be in keeping with his M.O. I wonder who his ultimate target is. Is it really POTUS or does he suspect Flynn and/or Manafort of colluding with Russia and is trying to get them to give up the details on precisely how it happened?

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