Former Michigan congressman and House Intelligence Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra talked about the Susan Rice “unmasking” scandal with SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily.
Hoekstra indulged in a little sarcasm by saying, “Susan Rice is exactly right. Unmasking is no big deal! If our intelligence community picks up Americans in conversations accidentally, of course, our intelligence community and people in the White House have a right to know who these individuals are and what they’re saying to foreign individuals. What’s the big deal?”
“Well, the big deal is what the left and some on the right have been arguing about for ten years,” he said, turning serious and answering his own question. “If you give Big Data to Big Government, bad things can happen. It’s very, very ugly. For ten, fifteen years we fought that day regularly, with the Patriot Act, that the government has no right to collect and uncover American data, and then – we don’t use the term ‘unmask,’ but you know, the government has no right to see what Americans are talking about and what they’re doing, unless they go and get court orders specifically targeting Americans.”
“You’re absolutely right. This could become very, very ugly. It is Big Brother potentially at its worst,” he told Kassam.
Hoekstra said Democrats would have to explain their evolving stance on surveillance “the next time there are debates on the Patriot Act and there’s talk about continuing certain government rights, expanding them or rolling them back.”
“It is unbelievable how they have walked away from this issue,” he said, “because what we’re talking about here is, in the White House, senior government officials who appear to have targeted the Trump campaign, to understand what they were doing in the transition team during the transition period. What they would need that information for, I have no idea.”
“We have to find out who asked the intelligence community,” he urged. “This stuff is, yes, it is collected accidentally, but who asked them to then take this information and send the raw intelligence, the intelligence reports that were based off of this, and the unmasking – who asked for that information to be sent to the White House?”
“Susan Rice now says, ‘I did do unmasking, but hey, it’s no big deal.’ Well, did you also ask for transition team information to be forwarded to the White House? Did you ask for this intelligence to be specifically collected and highlighted so that you and Ben Rhodes and John Brennan could see this information and discuss it at the White House?” Hoekstra asked.
Kassam noted that two weeks ago, Rice was claiming she did not know this unmasking of Americans swept up in foreign surveillance was happening at all. “What is this mentality? Does she think we’re stupid?” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, she does, I think,” Hoekstra chuckled, recalling her infamous journey across the Sunday morning roundtable shows in 2012 to spread falsehoods about the Benghazi attack. “She went on the Sunday morning shows and told America repeatedly, ‘Benghazi? Benghazi was America’s fault because we had this filmmaker in Los Angeles who released this awful, awful film.’ Rather than standing up and, number one, defending the right of Americans to say whatever they want…”
Kassam interjected to say that Rice’s false narrative on Benghazi did not just portray the attack as America’s fault, but as freedom’s fault.
“She has to relive the saga that it was a lie,” Hoekstra continued. “It never had anything to do with the video. I think people in the Middle East are saying, ‘What video is she talking about? Doesn’t she know why we’re doing this? We hate America!’”
Kassam asked what the White House and Congress should do about the unmasking situation moving forward.
“Number one, I would give the House Intelligence Committee a little bit of time,” Hoekstra replied. “I’d give Devin Nunes a little bit of time to put this together. Joe DiGenova yesterday, he’s a very well-respected attorney in Washington, DC, highlighted the fact that they had spreadsheets of the phone calls. I’m assuming what Trump transition team member, what country they were talking about, what the content of the call was about.”
“There’s also been reports that Devin Nunes had to go to the White House compound to get this information because the NSA was slow-rolling providing the chairman with the materials he requested,” Hoekstra continued. “He finally went to another place where they were accessible. It’s totally unacceptable for NSA to be slow-rolling anything. They ought to be doing this on an accelerated basis.”
“Devin needs to collect this information and have it all and then tell the story of what happened,” he advised. “Tell the story of how often Susan Rice, in the first few years on the job, got intelligence reports; how often she did unmasking; who else was being monitored. Some are saying it’s kind of unreasonable to think that out of 16 Republican candidates for president, they were only monitoring the one who had the least likely chance to win. Were there other Republican candidates that were being monitored? We know that the Obama administration, the Democratic Party, was favoring Hillary Clinton through the primary process. What about Bernie Sanders?”
“Collect all that information and run it through a timeline. Tell the story. What happened when Donald Trump became the nominee? What happened when he won the election? Did the number of reports on the Trump transition team all of a sudden increase significantly? Did the number of times that Susan Rice was asking for unmasking – did that start to increase? Show the pattern, tell the story if there’s a story to tell, okay? Whatever the story is, tell the story and don’t go at it piecemeal,” he urged.
“They have to be a thousand percent more prepared for the hearing. I would press for a public hearing and the public disclosure of a lot of these documents. They have nothing to do, apparently, with national security. Check with the people who are uncovered to see if it’s okay with them that these materials are made public. Prepare a thousand percent more than what they did for James Comey and Mike Rogers three weeks ago. They were unprepared for that hearing,” said Hoekstra.
“I thought James Comey and Mike Rogers walked away from that hearing – not lying, I went through this for years, but getting away with incomplete information,” he elaborated. “We used to call it Twenty Questions. You could ask 19 questions around an issue, and they would answer your questions. I remember these people coming in, and they would testify. They were good, okay? And after the hearing, a couple of days later, I’d see something in the media somewhere and I’d say, ‘We asked these guys about this when they were here!’”
“We’d call them back in, and I remember one specific individual came back with transcripts,” Hoekstra recalled. “I said, ‘We asked you about this,’ and he said, ‘Well, actually, Mr. Chairman, here’s the specific question you asked me, and I answered your question.’ And you would say, ‘Yeah, but what just came out is only two degrees from what we asked you.’ And he said, ‘Yes, Mr. Chairman, but I answered your question. If you would have asked me this other question, I would have answered, but you never asked me.’”
“You’d just look at them in totally frustrated anger. These people are supposed to be forthright. He knew what I was asking, okay? I just didn’t say it exactly right,” he concluded.
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