In a shocking new twist to the Obama/Trump/Russia story, it was revealed Monday that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice asked intelligence agencies to “unmask” redacted names they caught on incidental surveillance. Those names, of course, were of American citizens aiding the Trump campaign and transition team.
Eli Lake of Bloomberg Politics published the explosive details:
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations — primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.
This is looking more and more like a purely political scandal with every passing day. Rice needs to answer for what she did. We need to know why Rice thought it was necessary for her to have those names, we need to know exactly what she did with them, we need to know how some of them got leaked to the press, and we need to know – perhaps most of all – if she did this under authorization of her boss, President Barack Obama.
In his report, Lake noted that Rice previously denied knowing anything about Trump’s aides being picked up by U.S. intelligence agencies incidentally. “I know nothing about this,” she told PBS last month. “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.”
We now know she was lying. What we don’t yet know is why.
On Monday, Sen. Rand Paul said that Rice should be compelled to testify before Congress on the issue.
“She needs to be asked, did President Obama ask her to do this? I think she ought to testify under oath on this,” Paul said. “I think she should be asked under oath, did she reveal it to the Washington Post?”
This is a matter of civil liberties, but it’s also about the extent to which the Obama administration used the U.S. intelligence apparatus for political means. If Obama and Rice cannot ultimately justify their actions – and they can only do so by conclusively tying Trump to some level of collusion with Moscow – then this is a scandal of historic proportions.
We knew of Obama’s contempt for the Constitution. We may not have known, however, just how vast that contempt actually was.