On Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama’s former National Security Advisor Susan Rice appeared on MSNBC with host Andrea Mitchell to answer questions about allegations that had emerged earlier in the week to suggest that she requested the “unmasking” of the names of Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams in intelligence reports, which allegedly had nothing to do with national security, and that she had compiled spreadsheets of those names.
Here are the highlights of Mitchell’s interview with Rice, which took up the first quarter-hour of Mitchell’s show.
- Rice admitted asking for the names of U.S. citizens in intelligence reports to be “unmasked.” Rice said: “There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request, the information as to who that U.S. official was.” Rice argued it was necessary for her and other officials to request that information, on occasion, to “do our jobs” to protect national security.
- Rice admitted asking specifically for the names of members of Donald Trump’s transition team. She argued that she had not done so for political purposes, however. Mitchell asked: “Did you seek the names of people involved in — to unmask the names of people involved in the Trump transition, the people surrounding the president-elect in order to spy on them and expose them?” Rice answered: “Absolutely not for any political purposes to spy, expose, anything.”
- Rice denied leaking the name of former General Michael Flynn. “I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have, and never would.” She added that to discuss particular targets would be to reveal classified information. She later walked back her denial. Mitchell: “The allegation is that you were leaking the fact that he spoke to the [Russian] ambassador and perhaps to others.” Rice: “I can’t get into any specific reports … what I can say is there is an established process.”
- Rice denied reports that she prepared a “spreadsheet” of Trump transition staff under surveillance. Mitchell asked specifically about the Daily Caller story Tuesday: “They allege there was a spreadsheet you put out of all of these names and circulated it.” Rice: “Absolutely false. No spreadsheet, no nothing of the sort.” She said that unmasked names “was not then typically broadly disseminated throughout the national security community or the government.”
- Rice said that even if she did request the names of citizens to be unmasked, that did not mean she leaked them. “The notion … that by asking for the identity of an American person, that is the same as leaking it, is completely false.”
- Rice admitted that the pace of intelligence reports accelerated throughout the election. She said she could not say whether the pace of her “unmasking” requests accelerated, but she said there was increasing concern, as well as increasing information, relating to the possibility of Russian interference in the election, particularly after August 2016.
- Rice implied that President Obama himself ordered the compilation of intelligence reports on Trump officials. “…the president requested the compliation of the intelligence, which was ultimately provided in January .”
- Rice said that she was unaware, even while working with Flynn during the transition, that he was working for the Turkish government. Mitchell asked: “When did you learn that?” Rice answered: “In the press, as everybody else did.” Mitchell, incredulously: “You didn’t know that, when you were National Security Advisor?” Rice: “I did not.”
- Rice reiterated that President Obama never tapped Trump’s phone. “Absolutely false … there was no such collection [or] surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals … directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals.” She did not deny that there might have been some surveillance by other agencies, however. She said it was impossible for the White House to order such surveillance, but that the Department of Justice could have done so.
- Rice seemed aggrieved by Trump’s claims. “It wasn’t typical of the way presidents treat their predecessors.”
- Rice would not say whether she would be willing to testify on Capitol Hill before Congress. “Let’s see what comes. I’m not going to sit here and prejudge,” she said. But she insisted that the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election were of interest to every American citizen, and should be followed wherever the evidence leads.
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.