Former national security adviser Susan Rice came under fire earlier this year when White House lawyers learned that she had “unmasked” — internally identified — several Trump-affiliated officials who were named in a classified intelligence report.
After news broke about the unmasking, conservatives like Rep. Devin Nunes jumped on the story and tried to paint Rice’s actions as an abuse of power and a potential attempt at sabotaging the incoming president. Now, months later, Rice has revealed the real reason for her decision to unmask these individuals.
Multiple sources told CNN on Wednesday that Rice was trying to figure out why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, met with top Trump aides in New York City in December of last year.
This meeting, which was attended by several top Trump aides — including Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon — occurred less than a month before the UAE tried to set up a back-channel communication between Russia and the Trump White House.
Rice addressed the House Intelligence Committee last week to explain her reasoning for unmasking the individuals mentioned in the report about the meeting. During her interview, she also denied having leaked any classified information to the press.
After hearing her side of the story, several Republican lawmakers have changed their minds and decided that, despite President Trump’s insistence, Rice did not commit a crime.
Rep. Tim Rooney (R-Florida) told CNN about Rice’s testimony:
‘I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal.’
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) said that “nothing that came up” in Rice’s interview led him to conclude that she was out of line for unmasking the names of Trump associates who attended the meeting.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) also said that Rice was “a good witness” who “answered all our questions.” Conaway, who took over running the House Russia probe after Nunes recused himself over accusations that he had improperly disclosed classified information, added:
‘I’m not aware of any reason to bring her back.’
Members of the House Intelligence Committee may have changed their minds about Rice. However, the jury is out on whether or not President Trump still thinks she committed a crime.
When questioned by CNN on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t say if Trump is still convinced Rice was working against him. Instead, she spoke more broadly about the seriousness of leaking classified information, despite the fact that Rice has denied doing this:
‘We’ve seen illegal leaking of classified materials, including the identities of American citizens unmasked in intelligence reports. That’s why the President called for Congress to investigate this matter and why the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community are doing all they can to stamp out this dangerous trend that undermines our national security.’
Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images.