President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, allegedly ordered surveillance of Donald Trump’s campaign aides during the last election, and maintained spreadsheets of their telephone calls, the Daily Caller reports.
The alleged spreadsheets add a new dimension to reports on Sunday and Monday by blogger Mike Cernovich and Eli Lake of Bloomberg News that Rice had asked for Trump aides’ names to be “unmasked” in intelligence reports. The alleged “unmasking” may have been legal, but may also have been part of an alleged political intelligence operation to disseminate reports on the Trump campaign widely throughout government with the aim of leaking them to the press.
At the time that radio host Mark Levin and Breitbart News compiled the evidence of surveillance, dissemination, and leaking — all based on mainstream media reports — the mainstream media dismissed the story as a “conspiracy theory.”
Now, however, Democrats are backing away from that allegation, and from broader allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, as additional details of the Obama administration’s alleged surveillance continue to emerge.
The Daily Caller reports:
“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.”
The surveillance and spreadsheet operation were allegedly “ordered one year before the 2016 presidential election.” According to a Fox News report on Monday, former White House aide Ben Rhodes was also involved.
Rhodes and Rice were both implicated in a disinformation campaign to describe the Benghazi terror attack in Sep. 2012 as a protest against a YouTube video. Rhodes also boasted of creating an “echo chamber” in the media to promote the Iran deal, feeding stories to contrived networks of “experts” who offered the public a steady stream of pro-agreement propaganda.
On Monday, Rhodes retweeted a CNN story quoting Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) claiming that the alleged unmasking was “nothing unusual.”
To the extent they have reported the surveillance story at all, CNN and other news outlets have focused on Trump’s tweets last month that alleged President Obama had “wiretapped” Trump Tower, describing the claims as unfounded.
CNN continued treating story dismissively on Monday, with The Lead host Jake Tapper insisting allegations of Russian interference in the election were more important than what he referred to as the president’s effort to distract from them.
Later in the day, host Don Lemon declared he would ignore the surveillance story and urged viewers to do likewise.
The potential abuse of surveillance powers for political purposes has long troubled civil libertarians, and could affect the re-authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act later this year.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.