Posts Tagged ‘House Intelligence Committee’

Did Obama Know about Comey’s Surveillance?

September 20, 2017

The media is less interested in Obama Administration wiretapping than in how Trump described it.

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This week CNN is reporting more details on the Obama Administration’s 2016 surveillance of people connected to the presidential campaign of the party out of power. It seems that once President Obama’s appointee to run the FBI, James Comey, had secured authorization for wiretapping, the bureau continued its surveillance into 2017. CNN reports:

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump.

Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

This means the wiretapping was authorized more than ten months ago and perhaps more than a year ago.

It was presumably a tough decision for a judge to issue a secret warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enabling the administration to spy on someone connected with the presidential campaign of its political adversaries.

One would presumably only approve such an order if the request presented by the executive branch was highly compelling and likely to produce evidence that the subject of the wiretap was in fact working with Russia to disrupt U.S. elections.

Roughly a year later, as the public still waits for such evidence, this column wonders how this judge is feeling now, especially now that CNN has reported that at least two of its three sources believe the resulting evidence is inconclusive.

One would also presume—or at least hope—that seeking to wiretap associates of the leader of the political opposition is not an everyday occurrence in any administration. At the very least, it seems highly unlikely that such a decision would be made by a mid-level official. CNN notes,

“Such warrants require the approval of top Justice Department and FBI officials, and the FBI must provide the court with information showing suspicion that the subject of the warrant may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

It seems reasonable for the public to know exactly which officials made this decision and who else they consulted or informed of their surveillance plans. Was the President briefed on the details of this investigation?

And as for the information showing suspicion, where did the FBI come up with that? A September 7 column from the Journal’s Kim Strassel raises disturbing questions, based on recent events and a Washington Post story from last winter. Ms. Strassel writes:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation took a sharp and notable turn on Tuesday, as news broke that it had subpoenaed the FBI and the Justice Department for information relating to the infamous Trump “dossier.”

That dossier, whose allegations appear to have been fabricated, was commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and then developed by a former British spook named Christopher Steele. ..

The Washington Post in February reported that Mr. Steele “was familiar” to the FBI, since he’d worked for the bureau before. The newspaper said Mr. Steele had reached out to a “friend” at the FBI about his Trump work as far back as July 2016. The Post even reported that Mr. Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.”

Oddly, even though CNN is the source of this week’s news, the media outlet seems less interested in President Obama’s knowledge of the surveillance activities that occurred on his watch and against his political adversaries than in how President Trump has described them.

CNN’s scoop doesn’t even mention Mr. Obama except in the context of Mr. Trump’s accusations of wiretapping against the former president that appeared on Twitter in March. CNN has followed up with another story saying that Mr. Trump’s accusations have still not been proven.

That’s true, although Mr. Trump’s argument may be getting stronger. And whatever Donald Trump’s tweets say, Americans deserve to know how our government came to spy on people associated with the presidential campaign of the party out of power.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/did-obama-know-about-comeys-surveillance-1505852932

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Senate Judiciary Committee withdraws subpoena for Manafort — Removes Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday’s public hearing

July 26, 2017

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman will not be testifying Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as originally scheduled, after the committee rescinded its subpoena.

The committee withdrew its subpoena for Paul Manafort late Tuesday after Manafort agreed to turn over documents and to continue negotiating about setting up an interview with the panel, according to Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman. The committee also removed Donald Trump Jr. from the list of witnesses scheduled for Wednesday’s public hearing.

The panel has sought to talk with Manafort about a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in New York with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among other issues including his foreign political work on behalf of Ukrainian interests.

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Paul Manafort

On Tuesday Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, providing his recollection of the Veselnitskaya meeting and agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the gathering last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview. Manafort “answered their questions fully,” said his spokesman, Jason Maloni.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner was also on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a second day of private meetings, this time for a conversation with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee.

Both Manafort and Kushner have been cooperating with the committees which, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner at an event with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington on June 22.PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The two men have faced particular scrutiny about attending the Trump Tower meeting because it was flatly described in emails to Donald Trump Jr. as being part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s presidential campaign.

Manafort’s discussion with committee staff was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 meeting, according to two people familiar with the interview. Both demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview occurred behind closed doors. Manafort had previously disclosed the meeting in documents he turned over to the committee. He has now provided the committee with notes he took at the time, one of the people said.

The other person said Manafort has also said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate Intelligence Committee staff on other topics if necessary. Those meetings haven’t yet been scheduled.

Kushner spent about three hours behind closed doors Tuesday with the House intelligence panel. Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the committee’s Russia probe, said he found Kushner to be “straightforward, forthcoming, wanted to answer every question we had.” He said Kushner was willing to follow up with the committee if it has additional questions.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said the questions touched on “a range of issues the committee had been concerned about.”

“We appreciate his voluntary willingness to come and testify today,” Schiff added.

On Monday, Kushner answered questions from staff on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump’s victorious White House bid and insisting he had “nothing to hide.”

Emails released this month show that Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, accepted a June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya with the understanding that he would receive damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. But, in his statement for the two intelligence committees, Kushner said he hadn’t read those emails until being recently shown them by his lawyers.

Kushner’s statement was the first detailed defense from a campaign insider responding to the controversy that has all but consumed the first six months of Trump’s presidency.

Kushner called the meeting with Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.

“No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign; there was no follow-up to the meeting that I am aware of; I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted,” he said.

Kushner on Monday confirmed earlier media reports that he had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities to set up secure communications between Trump adviser Michael Flynn, who would become national security adviser, and Russian officials. But he disputed that it was an effort to establish a “secret back channel.”

His statement describes a December meeting with Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which Kushner and Kislyak discussed establishing a secure line for the Trump transition team and Moscow to communicate about policy in Syria.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak PHOTO: CAROLYN KASTER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Russian-American lobbyist also at Trump Tower Meeting With Donald Trump Jr., Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, The Associated Press Finds

July 15, 2017

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Donald Trump Jr. is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York Tuesday, July 11, 2017. (Richard Drew – Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer attended a meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, the lobbyist said Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team’s evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.

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Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press in an interview. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.

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Rinat Akhmetshin

A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. (July 14)

The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump’s associates coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election — to help him and thwart Hillary Clinton — and whether they’ve been forthcoming about their foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators are probing possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.

Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He’s a well-known Washington presence, lobbying for Russian interests trying to undermine the allegations of a lawyer who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.

Akhmetshin told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never formally trained as a spy.

In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist said he arranged the meeting because a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Clinton. The go-between stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he has not disclosed Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has publicly discounted the meeting, saying he did not receive the information he was promised.

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Natalia Veselnitskaya

In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney had said she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and current White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. Akhmetshin said he recognized Kushner and Trump Jr. He also said he recognized Manafort because they worked in “adjacent political circles” but never together.

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Paul Manafort

He said there were others in the room but he didn’t know them. Publicist Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting via email with Trump Jr., has told the AP that he was there.

Asked about Akhmetshin’s participation, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment. Trump Jr.’s attorney did not respond to inquiries, nor did a spokesman for Kushner. Veselnitskaya has denied having any ties to the Russian government. When reached by the AP this week, she declined comment. She did not respond to additional attempts to contact her Friday.

The confirmation of Akhmetshin’s participation in the meeting drew swift reaction from the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who said he wanted Akhmetshin to appear before the committee and provide “any relevant documents and information.”

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Jared Kushner

Schiff said whether Akhmetshin is connected to Russian intelligence or not “it is clear the Kremlin got the message that Donald Trump welcomed the help of the Russian government in providing dirt on Hillary Clinton.” Schiff said Trump Jr.’s omission of Akhmetshin’s role in his public account of the meeting and the president’s son’s shifting explanations “paint a portrait of consistent dissembling and deceit.”

Kushner disclosed the meeting on his security clearance paperwork, but Schiff said the Akhmetshin revelation raises questions about how much Kushner disclosed about it. He said he believes Kushner’s clearance should be reviewed, and “if he was not perfectly candid,” the clearance should be revoked.

Akhmetshin, who spoke to the AP while on vacation in France where he said he has been surfing, said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.

“I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he said.

The Russian government has denied any involvement or knowledge of the June 2016 meeting. Asked Friday about Akhmetshin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters: “We don’t know anything about this person.”

Akhmetshin has been identified in media reports as a former officer in Russia’s military intelligence service known as the GRU. He has denied that, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 after he was drafted but was not trained in spy tradecraft. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was “loosely part of counterintelligence.”

Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the U.S. special counsel’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he’s willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.

The chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said in a March letter that Akhmetshin has “reportedly admitted to being a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’ and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters.”

Akhmetshin said that the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit sent him a letter in April and told him, “it has come to our attention you should have filed for FARA.” He said he didn’t believe he needed to file. He has previously registered with Congress for the lobbying work, and he plans to raise this issue before Grassley’s committee.

“I think I have a legal right to tell my story,” he said.

Separately on Friday, the data and digital director for Trump’s presidential campaign said he will speak with the House Intelligence committee later this month as part of its own Russia probe.

Brad Parscale said in a statement that he is “unaware of any Russian involvement” in the data and digital operations but will voluntarily appear before the panel.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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Rob Goldstone from his Facebook page

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4697784/Did-Jared-leak-Donald-Trump-Jr-meeting-emails.html#ixzz4msMduZi1
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Donald Trump Jr: Former Soviet counterintelligence officer confirms he attended Russian lawyer meeting

Mr Trump Jr has dismissed the controversy as a ‘big yawn’

The Independent

A Russian former military operative with links to counterintelligence also attended Donald Trump Jr’s notorious meeting with a Russian lawyer about obtaining possibly incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Rinat Akhmetshin, a dual Russian-American citizen and lobbyist who has been accused of acting as “an unregistered agent for Russian interests” and with ties to Russian military intelligence service, or GRU, has confirmed he attended the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Also participating in the meeting was a US-based Russian translator, Anatoli Samochornov, who had worked previously for Ms Veselnitskaya and the US State Department at various points.

Mr Akhmetshin said he accompanied Ms Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower on 9 June 2016. Although he had known and worked with Ms Veselnitskaya for a number of years, he said he had only learned about the meeting that day when she asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Mr Trump Jr’s account of the meeting, which has shifted several times, failed to mention the presence of Mr Akhmetshin, or the translator. Mr Trump Jr said he had agreed to the meeting, also attended by Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort, because he was told Ms Veselnitskaya had material damaging to Ms Clinton that was “high level and sensitive information [and] is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”.

Mr Akhmetshin said Ms Veselnitskaya brought a plastic folder with her, containing printed documents that detailed what she believed could potentially be the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. Ms Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the Trump campaign, he said.

Mr Trump Jr asked the lawyer if she had all the evidence to back up her claims, according to Mr Akhmetshin, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Ms Veselnitskaya allegedly claimed the Trump campaign would need to research it more.

After that exchange, Mr Trump Jr lost interest, Mr Akhmetshin said. “They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he told the Associated Press.

Mr Akhmetshin said he does not know if Ms Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room, or simply left them behind, he said.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said that the reports about Mr Akhmetshin add “another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting”.

Mr Trump Jr has insisted the meeting did not amount to much, that he was offered no information on Ms Clinton and that in truth Ms Veselnitskaya wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act, a piece of US legislation that sanctions a handful of Russians the US believes might be linked to the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Ms Veselnitskaya has denied offering any information to Mr Trump Jr and working for the Russian state.

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Ms Veselnitskaya has denied working for the Russian government (AP)
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Mr Akhmetshin has been closely associated with Ms Veselnitskaya for several years and has worked with her in an effort to overturn the Magnitsky Act. Mr Samochornov did translation for Ms Veselnitskaya in relation to her lobbying and legal work in the US.

In 2016, Ms Veselnitskaya’s client, Denis Katsyv, head of the company Prevezon, registered a nonprofit company in Delaware called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGIF) in February 2016, which says its aim is to overturn an adoption ban on impacting American couples but which many believe is a front to lobby against the Magnitsky Act, the passage of which is said to have infuriated Vladimir Putin.

The HRAGIF’s registered lobbyist was Mr Akhmetshin, who took UK citizenship in 2009.

Earlier this year, Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he wanted to learn more about Mr Akhmetshin’s activities.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in April, Mr Grassley wrote: “I write to obtain information regarding Mr Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant to the United States who has been accused of acting as an unregistered agent for Russian interests and apparently has ties to Russian intelligence.”

He added: “Mr Akhmetshin is a Russian immigrant to the US who has admitted having been a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’. In fact, it has been reported that he worked for the GRU and allegedly specialises in ‘active measures campaigns, subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda.”

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Rinat Akhmetshin has worked as a lobbyist on behalf of various Russia-related issues for a number of years (Bill Browder)
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Mr Akhmetshin has denied that he worked for the GRU, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 after he was drafted but was not trained in spy tradecraft. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was “loosely part of counterintelligence”.

The development has infuriated President Trump, who had hoped to get away from the Russia story, even as special prosecutor Robert Mueller continues a probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s alleged effort to interfere in the 2016 election.

Mr Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by Mr Mueller’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Mr Trump Jr. He said he is willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump was obliged to defend his eldest son, saying that “anyone” would have taken the meeting.

Speaking in France, where he was meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, he said: “I do think this, that taken from a practical standpoint … most people would’ve taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. I’ve only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up, ‘Oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person,’ or, frankly, Hillary.”

He added: “That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world.”

Mr Akhmetshin did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Independent. President Trump’s lawyers also failed to respond.

Elsewhere, a former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, said after he testified to the House Intelligence Committee in closed session on Friday that he had no contact with Russians and never heard of anyone in the campaign “talking with Russians”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-jr-russia-meeting-societ-counter-intelligence-officer-jared-kushner-hillary-clinton-a7841386.html

Trump believed to be mulling the termination of special counsel Robert Mueller

June 13, 2017
  • Trump confidante Chris Ruddy said there had been talk of firing Mueller.
  • Ruddy says he personally thinks it would be a mistake.

The man in charge of the FBI’s investigation on potential Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election may be headed for the exit door.

President Donald Trump is considering terminating special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who was named by the Justice Department in May to lead the Russia probe, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy told PBS NewsHour on Monday.

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” Ruddy told PBS NewsHour. “I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.”

In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said he didn’t want to speculate on whether or not the president would fire Mueller.

Letting Mueller go would “be a very significant mistake,” Ruddy continued.

PBS anchor Judy Woodruff first tweeted the news and earlier on Monday, CNBC had spotted Ruddy, a close confidant of Trump, leaving the West Wing. Ruddy, however, did not meet with the president that evening as their meeting was postponed, NBC News reported.

Just spotted leaving the West Wing: Chris Ruddy, Newsmax CEO, close confidant of @POTUS.

Later on Monday night, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement saying Ruddy never spoke to the president, adding that only the “president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

If Trump decided to act, Mueller’s termination would mark the latest in a series of tumultuous events that has shaken up American politics.

Former FBI director James Comey, who was conducting an inquiry into possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow, said in testimony last week that the president had referred to the investigation as “a cloud” over his administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now due to testify on the matter before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

PBS’ report sparked immediate debate on Twitter.

Should Mueller get fired, that would be a waste of time, according to Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

If President fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller. Don’t waste our time.

Meanwhile, David Axelrod, director at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, warned of serious consequences.

This would ratchet up what’s already a crisis by 100X & be gut check for the many @GOP members of Congress who praised Mueller’s appt. https://twitter.com/judywoodruff/status/874397738108145665 

Read the full story on PBS here.

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By Chris Graham

Donald Trump is considering “terminating” Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible collusion between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russia, a friend of the president has said.

The former FBI director was appointed to the role last month with a remit to look at possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and “related matters”.

“I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy told “PBS NewsHour”.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Mr Ruddy’s claims.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, responded angrily to the report.

“If President [Trump] fired Bob Mueller, Congress would immediately re-establish independent counsel and appoint Bob Mueller,” Mr Schiff tweeted on Monday evening. “Don’t waste our time.”

Mr Schiff told MSNBC he guessed “this is part of the effort to tear down Robert Mueller”.

“You can’t exclude the possibility [of Mueller’s dismissal], but I think it’s just a way of raising doubts about this man who’s well respected on both sides of the aisle.”

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/donald-trump-considering-terminating-russia-special-counsel/

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 Friend Says Trump Is Considering Firing Mueller as Special Counsel

WASHINGTON — A longtime friend of President Trump said on Monday that Mr. Trump was considering whether to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russian officials.

The startling assertion comes as some of Mr. Trump’s conservative allies, who initially praised Mr. Mueller’s selection as special counsel, have begun trying to attack his credibility.

The friend, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media, who was at the White House on Monday, said on PBS’s “NewsHour” that Mr. Trump was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.”

“I think he’s weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy said.

His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.

“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

Read the rest:

House Intelligence Panel Issues Seven Subpoenas in Russia Probe

May 31, 2017

Four are related to Russia investigation, three to ‘unmasking’ controversy, individuals say

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week.

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas on Wednesday, in a sign that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is ramping up in scope and intensity, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Republican-led committee issued four subpoenas related to the Russia investigation. Three subpoenas are related to questions about how and why the names of associates of President Donald Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations.

The committee has subpoenaed the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency for information about what is called “unmasking.” Republicans on the committee have been pushing for a thorough investigation of how the names of Trump campaign officials became exposed in classified intelligence reports based off intelligence community intercepts.

Those subpoenas seek information on requests made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power for names to be unmasked in classified material. The three didn’t personally receive subpoenas, the people familiar with the matte said. Mr. Brennan, Ms. Rice and Ms. Power didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Power hasn’t previously been reported as a potential witness in the probe so her inclusion in the subpoenas may mean Republicans are broadening their areas of investigation.

Typically, information about Americans intercepted in foreign surveillance is redacted, even in classified reports distributed within the government, unless a compelling need exists to reveal them. Unmasking requests aren’t uncommon by top intelligence community officials but Republicans want to know whether any of the unmaskings of Trump campaign officials during the transition were politically motivated.

The four subpoenas related to the Russia investigation remain unknown but Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, has previously said that former national security adviser Mike Flynn would be subpoenaed by the panel. It is unclear if Mr. Flynn is one of the four targeted Wednesday.

The House Intelligence Committee is one of two bodies currently probing the question of whether Russian meddled in the 2016 election and whether anyone from Mr. Trump’s campaign played a role. The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting its own investigation and has already issued subpoenas to Mr. Flynn and his businesses. Mr. Trump has said there was no collusion with Russia and called the investigation a witch hunt. Russia has denied the allegations.

The House panel also sent a letter to former White House press aide Boris Epshteyn asking him to voluntarily submit information to the committee. Mr. Epshteyn briefly served as special assistant to the president in the Trump administration before departing his post earlier this year.

“Like many others, Mr. Epshteyn has received a broad, preliminary request for information from the House Intelligence Committee,” an attorney for Mr. Epshteyn said Wednesday. “This is a voluntary request. Mr. Epshteyn has not been subpoenaed nor do we anticipate that he will be. We have reached out to the committee with several follow up questions and we are awaiting their response in order to better understand what information they are seeking and whether Mr. Epshteyn is able to reasonably provide it.”

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

Former CIA Chief Brennan Says Russians Were in Contact With Trump Campaign Associates

May 23, 2017

Brennan said Russia ‘brazenly’ interfered in the presidential election despite a direct warning to a top Kremlin official

 Former CIA director John Brennan

WASHINGTON—Former CIA director John Brennan testified Tuesday that contacts by Donald Trump campaign associates with Russian officials last year raised concerns that the Kremlin could try to cultivate people close to Mr. Trump, shedding light on why federal agents began a full investigation.

Mr. Brennan also disclosed that the intelligence community’s alarm about Russia “brazenly” interfering in the 2016 presidential election prompted him to warn his Russian intelligence counterpart last summer to stop meddling in U.S. politics.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan explained the basis for the Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence investigation that was opened after the election, which is looking at potential collusion between the campaign and Russia.

“I encountered and I’m aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” said Mr. Brennan, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama.

Mr. Brennan said he didn’t know if these contacts by people tied to the campaign amounted to “collusion” with Russian officials, but said that a common Russian intelligence technique involved cultivating Americans as either witting or unwitting intelligence assets.

Mr. Brennan said he was concerned because of “known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.”

He said that the contacts picked up by U.S. intelligence justified the opening of an FBI investigation that has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s presidency.

“I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials,” said Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Brennan declined to discuss the specific information that his assessments were based on in the open hearing, saying that much of the information was classified. The House Intelligence Committee subsequently continued the hearing with Mr. Brennan in a classified, closed-door setting.

Mr. Trump has denied that he or his campaign coordinated with any foreign entity, and Russia has denied meddling in the election. Mr. Trump has said continuing questions about his campaign’s Russia contacts amount to a “witch hunt.”

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

The FBI investigation is now being overseen by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, after Mr. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey raised questions about whether the president was trying to quash the probe into whether his associates had contacts with Russians.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, according to people close to Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump has denied he made the request.

In a separate hearing Tuesday morning, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats declined to confirm or deny that Mr. Trump had asked him to publicly state there was no collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government in response to a Washington Post report.

The Post reported that the president asked Mr. Coats and the National Security Agency director, Adm. Mike Rogers, to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia.

Mr. Coats said it wasn’t appropriate to comment about the topic in his public testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We discuss a number of topics on a very regular basis,” Mr. Coats said. “On this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions, conversations with the president.”

Mr. Coats was asked if he had discussed with Adm. Rogers any request from Mr. Trump regarding collusion. Mr. Coats responded: “That is something that I would like to withhold, that question, at this particular point in time.”

Mr. Coats was also asked if he knew of any efforts by the White House to interfere in other aspects of the Russia inquiry, including allegations the president asked Mr. Comey to ease off investigating Mr. Flynn. “I am not aware of that,” Mr. Coats said.

Mr. Brennan, the former CIA chief, said in his testimony that the intelligence community determined by last August that there was a “very aggressive” effort by Russia to intervene in the 2016 election.

Mr. Brennan described a previously undisclosed warning he made to his counterpart in Russian intelligence, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian FSB service, not to interfere in the U.S. election in an August phone call. According to Mr. Brennan’s account, Mr. Bortnikov denied any attempt to intervene and said Moscow is routinely and falsely blamed for such efforts by the U.S. government.

Write to Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com and Joshua Jamerson at joshua.jamerson@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-cia-chief-brennan-says-russians-brazenly-interfered-in-u-s-election-1495551045?mod=e2fb

Taxes, Budget Are Focus for Trump Despite Probes

May 22, 2017

White House, congressional GOP leaders aim to show they can deliver on policy promises

The White House on Tuesday will roll out a budget proposal crystallizing the president’s priorities.

The White House on Tuesday will roll out a budget proposal crystallizing the president’s priorities. PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is thousands of miles away, but his policy agenda faces tests back home this week as he looks to shift the focus from Russia investigations to his plans for boosting American military power and revamping the tax code.

The White House on Tuesday will roll out a budget proposal crystallizing the president’s priorities in a blueprint that calls for large cuts to social safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food assistance while increasing Pentagon and border-security spending.

While Mr. Trump visits Pope Francis in Rome on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in Washington will testify about Mr. Trump’s 2018 budget plan before the House Ways and Means Committee. The same congressional panel will hold a separate hearing devoted to a tax overhaul aimed at reducing rates and speeding job growth—a centerpiece of Mr. Trump’s campaign message.

Following a drumbeat of revelations about Mr. Trump and Russia over the past two weeks, the White House and congressional Republican leaders are eager to show that they can deliver on policy promises.

“People in the country need to know that we are busy at work trying to solve their problems,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. “So I realize that there’s a lot in the media these days. That doesn’t seize up Congress. That doesn’t stop us from doing our jobs, to work on people’s problems.”

A potential land mine for the Trump administration is a report coming out this week from the Congressional Budget Office. The nonpartisan CBO will release its evaluation of the health-care bill that narrowly passed the House on May 4 following an intensive lobbying push by the White House.

The analysis could influence the bill’s fate in the Senate by giving lawmakers a fuller picture of how much the measure will cost and how many people might lose insurance coverage.

Meantime, the congressional machinery devoted to the Russia probe continues.

A high-profile witness will appear before the House Intelligence Committee this week as part of the panel’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, including questions about whether anyone from Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

John Brennan, the former Central Intelligence Agency director under President Barack Obama, will testify publicly on Tuesday—a hearing that is expected to shed new light on how the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies came to the determination that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

John Brennan, the former Central Intelligence Agency director under President Barack Obama, will appear Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

John Brennan, the former Central Intelligence Agency director under President Barack Obama, will appear Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. PHOTO: DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also preparing for a hearing with former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey after Memorial Day. A final date hasn’t been set. But the hearing is expected to be a moment of high-drama, with Mr. Comey facing questions about a memo he wrote saying that Mr. Trump asked him to back off an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Asked whether he had said any such thing to Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump told reporters at a news conference last week: “No. No.”

Many presidents in modern times have endured distracting investigations that threatened to derail their agendas. Former Republican President Ronald Reagan faced the Iran-Contra scandal, while Democrat Bill Clinton dealt with long-running inquiries into the real-estate deal known as Whitewater and the probe into his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Last week, the Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to head the investigation arising from allegations that Russia interfered in the presidential race. Some allies of Mr. Trump believe this is a welcome development that will enable the White House to concentrate on its priorities and defer to Mr. Mueller while the investigation plays out.

Anthony Scaramucci, who served on Mr. Trump’s transition team, said in an interview Sunday that a stock answer from the White House when it faces questions about the Russia probe should be: “We have a special counsel. Why don’t we just allow them to do their work.”

Inside the White House, Trump aides say they have been discussing ways to compartmentalize tasks so that the probe doesn’t consume the building and doom various policy goals. Some veterans of past administrations believe such concerns are justified.

“There’s reason to be concerned that all of the turbulence surrounding stuff like the Comey firing will distract from and delay what should otherwise be a very robust and positive economic policy agenda,” said Joshua Bolten, a former White House chief of staff under George W. Bush and chairman of the Business Roundtable, a trade group representing some of the biggest U.S. firms. “We don’t have a lot of weeks to spare if serious [tax] reform is going to get through.”

Staying disciplined amid the Russia probe depends to some extent on Mr. Trump and the restraint he is able to show. In the past, the president has seen fit to tweet about various matters in the news that upset him, giving the issues new life.

Since leaving for his trip last week to the Middle East and Europe, Mr. Trump hasn’t addressed the Russia controversy in his twitter feed. Nor has he gone off script in any of his public remarks.

Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to Mr. Reagan who dealt with the fallout from Iran-Contra, said that the Reagan White House set up a system in which the counsel’s office focused on the scandal, leaving others to focus on their jobs. He said the Trump White House should consider a similar arrangement.

“A lot of these lessons apply to any president, because every president invariably goes into the ditch on something,” Mr. Duberstein said.

Write to Peter Nicholas at peter.nicholas@wsj.com and Byron Tau at byron.tau@wsj.com

Appeared in the May. 22, 2017, print edition as ‘Taxes, Budget Focus for Trump Despite Probes.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/taxes-budget-are-focus-for-trump-despite-probes-1495414525

Trump Considering Ex-Congressman Mike Rogers for FBI Director

May 11, 2017
May 11, 2017, 10:06 AM EDT May 11, 2017, 11:09 AM EDT
  • Rogers is a former Intelligence Committee chair and FBI agent
  • Former representative from Michigan is among other candidates

President Donald Trump is considering Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman and FBI agent from Michigan, among candidates to replace James Comey as FBI director, a White House official said.

Image result for Mike Rogers, photos

Rogers, 53, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, retired from Congress in 2015 after seven terms to pursue a career in talk radio. He advised the Trump presidential transition team on national security issues but was asked to leave at about the same time New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was removed as head of the transition.

Trump fired Comey on Tuesday after what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders described as months of rising frustration with the FBI director, dating back to Trump’s election. Comey was leading the FBI investigation of potential collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian government officials who sought to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Comey also publicly dismissed Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama spied on him.

The firing has plunged the Trump White House into another political crisis, as Democrats have roundly castigated the decision and some Republicans have expressed unease.

What Happens to Trump-Russia Probe After Comey: QuickTake Q&A

Rogers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

FBI Shock

Two days after Comey’s firing, there is still shock within the FBI, said a former senior agent with contacts within the bureau. Rank-and-file agents regard Trump’s decision on Comey’s replacement as a tipping point: will the FBI remain independent or become politicized under the new president, the former agent said.

Rogers is respected in foreign policy and intelligence communities and he would likely be well received by Republican leaders in Congress, but Democrats would likely regard him as too political a choice. FBI agents would also prefer a non-political leader, the former agent said.

Rogers is not the only candidate Trump is considering, but the official did not share other names. People floated as possible picks include Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney who briefly filled in as Attorney General after Trump fired Sally Yates in January; John Pistole, a former director of the Transportation Security Administration and a former FBI deputy director; former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; and Michael Mason, a senior vice president at Verizon Inc. and a former FBI executive assistant director.

The former agent said Pistole in particular would be popular within the FBI.

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, suggested on Twitter Thursday morning that Trump appoint U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to lead the FBI. Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court last year, but Senate Republicans refused to consider him.

Twenty Democratic state attorneys general meanwhile sent a letter to Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday calling on him to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the election. Rosenstein, who has been in office for about two weeks, wrote a letter recommending Comey’s dismissal — at Trump’s request — that the White House has used as justification for the firing.

“As prosecutors committed to the rule of law, we urge you to consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation,” the attorneys general wrote. They included New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-11/trump-said-to-consider-ex-congressman-rogers-for-fbi-director

Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stepping aside in Russia probe — Requesting to speak to Ethics Committee

April 6, 2017

Representative Devin Nunes of California, a Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, arrived for a meeting Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

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Rep. Devin Nunes steps aside from Russia probe

After a number of ethics complaints, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., announced today that he will step aside from leading the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics. The charges are entirely false and politically motivated, and are being leveled just as the American people are beginning to learn the truth about the improper unmasking of the identities of U.S. citizens and other abuses of power,” Nunes said in a statement released this morning. But he said today that Rep. Mike Conaway, with assistance from Reps. Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, will “temporarily” lead the committee’s Russia probe while the House Ethics Committee looks into the matter.

“I will continue to fulfill all my other responsibilities as Committee Chairman, and I am requesting to speak to the Ethics Committee at the earliest possible opportunity in order to expedite the dismissal of these false claims,” the statement concluded.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who previously said on March 28 that he did not think Nunes should step down, defended Nunes’ integrity but said he supports the decision.

“Devin Nunes has earned my trust over many years for his integrity and dedication to the critical work that the intelligence community does to keep America safe,” Ryan said in a statement. “He continues to have that trust, and I know he is eager to demonstrate to the Ethics Committee that he has followed all proper guidelines and laws. In the meantime, it is clear that this process would be a distraction for the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in our election.”

“Chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican on this probe, and I fully support this decision. Chairman Mike Conaway, a senior member of the Committee, will now lead this investigation in the House. I am confident that he will oversee a professional investigation into Russia’s actions and follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

Nunes was on White House grounds March 21 reviewing information pertaining to what he said was the legal, “incidental” collection of surveillance on President Donald Trump’s associates, and possibly Trump himself, one day before he held an impromptu news conference announcing his findings and then briefed the president.

Nunes joined the House Intelligence Committee in 2011 and was appointed chairman by then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

After Trump clinched the GOP nomination, Nunes came out in support of Trump and organized a fundraiser for the Republican nominee in August 2016.

Nunes was named to the executive committee of Trump’s transition team on Nov. 11, 2016. During the transition phase, he advised Trump on his Cabinet nominees and other top positions within the incoming administration.

Susan Rice wasn’t the only White House official looking to ‘unmask’ Trump team figures – and Mike Flynn wasn’t the only one exposed

April 5, 2017
Former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice asked intelligence agencies dozens of times to 'unmask' the names of Donald Trump associates that were redacted from raw intelligence reports – and she wasn't the only one

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice asked intelligence agencies dozens of times to ‘unmask’ the names of Donald Trump associates that were redacted from raw intelligence reports – and she wasn’t the only one

  • Obama national security advisor Susan Rice is accused of repeatedly asking U.S. agencies to ‘unmask’ Trumpworld names from raw intelligence reports
  • A new report says Rice wasn’t the only one in the Obama White House to do this  
  • It’s not unusual for a high-ranking national security official to ask for the names of people ‘incidentally’ surveilled, in order to understand a report’s context
  • But the name of Rice’s successor Mike Flynn was subsequently leaked to the press – which constitutes a felony
  • The new report also says Flynn was just one of at least two Trump officials whose names were left exposed 

Former national security advisor Susan Rice wasn’t the only Obama administration official to request the ‘unmasking’ of members of President Donald Trump’s transition team – and her successor Mike Flynn was just one of at least two who were left exposed.

Flynn was forced out of his job after a transcript of an intercepted phone call was leaked to The Washington Post, detailing a conversation he had last year with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. – a discussion that reportedly included mention of rolling back U.S. sanctions on Moscow.

It’s not known who the second Trump transition official is, but The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that there were two – based on information from a Republican linked to the House Intelligence Committee.

‘The official said Ms. Rice had requested the unmasking of at least one transition official—not Mr. Flynn—who was part of multiple foreign conversations that weren’t related to Russia,’ the Journal reported.

And ‘Rice wasn’t the administration official who instigated Mr. Flynn’s unmasking.’ That puts at least one other Obama White House official in the picture.

Retired Gen. Mike Flynn (left), who served briefly as National Security Advisor before being forced out, wasn't the only Trump transition official whose name was 'unmasked' 

Retired Gen. Mike Flynn (left), who served briefly as National Security Advisor before being forced out, wasn’t the only Trump transition official whose name was ‘unmasked’

Rice forcefully denied on Tuesday that she purposely collected classified intelligence information about anyone associated with the Trump campaign or transition, and said any suspicion that she leaked names to the press was ridiculous.

‘The allegations that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes, that’s absolutely false,’ she said.

She used the same words – ‘absolutely false’ – to deny a report in The Daily Caller that she had requested intelligence information on Trump associates and compiled it into a spreadsheet.

‘No spreadsheet, no nothing of the sort,’ Rice said.

she blasted Trump’s tweeted claims on March 4 that Obama had authorized surveillance of him and his team before and after the November election.

‘There was no such collection, surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals … and by that I mean directed by the White House or targeted at Trump individuals,’ she said.

Rice forcefully denied on Tuesday that she or anyone in the White House ever went out of their way to 'unmask' the identities of Trump or his associates, but The Wall Street Journal says at least two White House officials – and two from Trumpworld – are in the picture

Rice forcefully denied on Tuesday that she or anyone in the White House ever went out of their way to ‘unmask’ the identities of Trump or his associates, but The Wall Street Journal says at least two White House officials – and two from Trumpworld – are in the picture

White House officials, including any president, Rice added, ‘do not have the ability to order such collection.’

‘That can only come from the Justice Department through an established process. It never originates in the White House. So not only did it not occur, it didn’t occur and it could not have occurred – directed by the White House.’

WHAT IS UNMASKING? 

When U.S. intelligence services conduct surveillance of foreign targets, it’s possible that American citizens can be swept up in recorded conversations, intercepted emails or other surveillance.

That can happen when Americans who are not targets of an investigation are ‘incidentally’ captured talking to a target. it can also occur when targets merely mention them during a conversation or in a document.

When this happens, intelligence analysts routinely delete the Americans’ names and replace them with vague identifiers like ‘U.S. Person Number One’ or ‘Person A’ – masking their identity from other government officials who may look at reports.

Senior intelligence officials can request the ‘unmasking’ of those names under certain circumstances, but that creates a risk that the names will be leaked.

Rice said she was ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked’ by Trump’s accusation, saying ‘it had no basis in fact.’

‘And it wasn’t typical of the way presidents treat their predecessors, she said on MSNBC.

Host Andrea Mitchell asked her whether she ever intentionally ‘unmasked’ Trump-related names ‘in order to spy on them and expose them.

‘Absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, expose, anything,’ Rice responded.

She also flatly denied leaking the name of Gen. Michael Flynn, her successor, to reporters.

‘I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would,’ Rice insisted.

Tuesday on CNN, Rep. Adam Schiff – the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee – defended Rice and said she has been ‘a perennial target for the hard right.’

Schiff said there is ‘a strong desire by the White House that we lose our focus, that we not pursue the investigation of Russia, particularly as it might impact the Trump campaign.’

He also said continuing Rice-bashing ‘is appealing to the Breitbart crowd.’

Rice explained Tuesday that it isn’t uncommon for White House or cabinet officials to request the unmasking of names of U.S. citizens when they are incidentally snared in a spying net.

‘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”,’ she recalled.

‘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 said intelligence officials ‘can’t be passive consumers’ of information.

But ‘there’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking,’ she insisted.

There is not necessarily anything illegal or unusual about a national security adviser seeking to unmask names in raw reports, in order to fully understand the meaning of intercepted conversations.

But in this case those identities – including the name of then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn – were subsequently leaked and made public. That is a federal felony.

Rice sat down with MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell for a noontime interview that the network hastily began promoting at 11:30 a.m.

Rice sat down with MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell for a noontime interview that the network hastily began promoting at 11:30 a.m.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a half-hour before Rice's interview that some news outlets defending Rice have 'an invested angle and narrative'

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said a half-hour before Rice’s interview that some news outlets defending Rice have ‘an invested angle and narrative’

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff said Susan Rice is 'a perennial target for the hard right'

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff said Susan Rice is ‘a perennial target for the hard right’

President Trump retweeted a message from Internet newsman Matt Drudge on Tuesday, pointing to an article that claimed Rice ordered intelligence agencies to spy on him

President Trump retweeted a message from Internet newsman Matt Drudge on Tuesday, pointing to an article that claimed Rice ordered intelligence agencies to spy on him

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul appeared on Morning and demanded that Rice testify under oath before Congress

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul appeared on Morning and demanded that Rice testify under oath before Congress

Rice is being blamed for requesting that members of President Trump's teams names were unmasked in intelligence reports

Rice is being blamed for requesting that members of President Trump’s teams names were unmasked in intelligence reports

Rice, shown in the White House situation room (at left) listening to former president Barack Obama, is now at the center of the firestorm over whether they snooped on Trump during the 2016 election season

Rice, shown in the White House situation room (at left) listening to former president Barack Obama, is now at the center of the firestorm over whether they snooped on Trump during the 2016 election season

President Donald Trump claimed in a series of March 4 tweets that Obama had 'wiretapped' him before the November election; he later clarified that he was talking broadly about secret surveillance

President Donald Trump claimed in a series of March 4 tweets that Obama had ‘wiretapped’ him before the November election; he later clarified that he was talking broadly about secret surveillance

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes got a sneak peek last week at intelligence reports at the White House which are now believed to be security logs showing how often Rice asked to know which Trump officials were identified 'incidentally' in court-approved foreign snooping

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes got a sneak peek last week at intelligence reports at the White House which are now believed to be security logs showing how often Rice asked to know which Trump officials were identified ‘incidentally’ in court-approved foreign snooping

White House Press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that unspecified documents seen by Nunes were uncovered 'in the normal course of business'

White House Press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that unspecified documents seen by Nunes were uncovered ‘in the normal course of business’

Trump hasn't stopped tweeting about reports that support his March claims that he was surveilled for political purposes

Trump hasn’t stopped tweeting about reports that support his March claims that he was surveilled for political purposes