New Figure in Trump Surveillance Story: Susan Rice

Right and left disagree on how big a deal this is
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2017 9:16 AM CDT
New Figure in Trump Surveillance Story: Susan Rice
A 2016 file photo of Susan Rice on the South Lawn of the White House, when she was national security adviser.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice is back in the news again, this time regarding President Trump's wiretapping allegations. On the right, she is being accused of abusing her power while in office to "unmask," for political advantage, the names of Trump associates caught up in intelligence surveillance. Trump critics, meanwhile, say the story doesn't amount to much and accuse the White House of trying to divert attention from the president's wiretapping allegations. A look at coverage:

  • A key story comes from Eli Lake at Bloomberg News. He reported Monday that Rice requested the identities of Trump transition officials who were mentioned, but not named, in US intelligence reports. Those reports were mostly summaries of monitored conversations between foreign officials talking about the Trump transition, but sometimes between Trump associates and foreign officials. (The National Security Council logs of Rice's requests are apparently what Rep. Devin Nunes went to the White House to view.)
  • Lake's piece raises questions about why Rice wanted those names revealed—she didn't respond to the story—but he also notes that her requests "were likely within the law." He adds that the story doesn't "vindicate" Trump's unsupported accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
  • Adam Housley of Fox News also reported on Rice's requests, and his appearance on the network prompted Trump himself to weigh in via tweet: "Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends. 'Spied on before nomination.' The real story."

  • A post at Slate notes that Trump associates are under FBI investigation over allegedly improper communications with Russians, "so there may well have been urgent, legal reasons for Rice to have wanted information about the relationships between specific Trump-related figures and foreign individuals."
  • But the editorial page at the Wall Street Journal accuses the media and Democrats of hypocrisy. It wants any Trump-Russia ties investigated, but complains that the "media have been running like wildebeest after that story while ignoring how the Obama Administration might have abused domestic surveillance for its political purposes. Americans deserve to know the truth about both."
  • On CNN, Don Lemon accused the "right-wing media" of helping the White House try to divert attention from the controversy over Trump's wiretapping claims, adding that his show will not "aid and abet people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion," he said, per Mediaite.
  • The conservative NewsBusters blog accused ABC, NBC, and CBS of covering up the story by failing to report on the "massive revelation" Monday in their evening broadcasts.
  • On MSNBC Tuesday morning, frequent Trump critic Joe Scarborough blasted the New York Times for not having the story on its front page. "What is Susan Rice unmasking names for and spreading them across the government," he asked on Morning Joe, per Mediaite.
  • But the Times story on the subject (inside the paper) generally downplayed the significance of Rice's requests: "Former national security officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the requests as normal and said they were justified by the need for the president’s top security adviser to understand the context of reports sent to her by the nation’s intelligence agencies."
(More Susan Rice stories.)

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