If former National Security Advisor Susan Rice though she could get away from the current furore over the Trump "unmasking" scandal with just one MSNBC interview in which Andrea Mitchell did not even ask her why she lied two weeks ago to PBS, she will be disappointed because the House Intelligence Committee has officially asked Susan Rice to testify, supposedly under oath.
As the WSJ reports, citing two officials familiar with the matter, Rice who served as national security adviser under former President Barack Obama, is on a list of witnesses drawn up by the committee as part of its probe. House Republicans and Democrats have agreed upon a preliminary list of about 30 witnesses that officials say will be expanded as needed. Formal requests to testify haven’t been sent yet by the committee to the witnesses.
As everyone knows by now, the White House and Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the House panel’s chairman, have charged the Obama administration improperly used surveillance information that included “unmasking” the names of Trump transition team members for political gain ahead of handing over the White House.
Earlier on Tuesday, speaking to MSNBC, Rice said she didn’t use intelligence about Mr. Trump’s associates for political purposes and said she didn’t leak anything regarding her successor, Mike Flynn. In the television interview, she also described requests to unmask the identities of Americans mentioned in intelligence reports as necessary to do her job and entirely different than leaking classified information.
“The notion, which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of an American person, that is the same as leaking it, is completely false,” Ms. Rice said on MSNBC. “There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking. The effort to ask for the identity of the American citizen is necessary to understand the importance of an intelligence report in some instances.”
However, she declined to comment on whether she had made such requests with respect to people associated with Trump who may have been mentioned in intelligence reports. She was also not asked why she lied in an interview two weeks ago on PBS in which she said she had no information about any "unmasking."
A Republican official familiar with deliberations by GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee said the names of two U.S. citizens who were part of the Trump transition team have been unmasked in intelligence reports. One is Mr. Flynn and the other hasn’t been identified, said the official, adding that this person appeared in a report that had nothing to do with Russia, unlike the report featuring Mr. Flynn, which documented phone conversations he had in late December with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Flynn was forced to resign after misleading White House officials and Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of those conversations, which current and former officials said concerned the possible easing of Obama-era sanctions on Russia. The existence of those conversations was leaked to the media in January, almost exclusively to the WaPo and NYT.
The question is who did the leaking.
The Republican official and others said Rice wasn’t the administration official who instigated Flynn’s unmasking. Rice acknowledged in her televised interview Tuesday that she requested names of Americans be unmasked in intelligence files. But she refused to comment about whether she sought the unmasking of any Trump transition members.
“The additional unmasking of an American is a disaster,” the Republican official said. “There was no reason to unmask that name.”
Rice said in the MSNBC interview that she couldn’t get into which names were unmasked in specific reports. “I don’t know what Devin Nunes reviewed at the White House,” she said. “What I can say is that there is an established process for senior national security officials to ask for the identity of U.S. persons in these reports.” Rice also said she didn’t know what reports were being referred to “by those who are putting out this story.”
“I don’t know what time frame they were from, I don’t know the subject matter, and I don’t know who they think was collected upon,” she said.
Rice also said she didn’t leak the name of Mr. Flynn. “I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would,” Rice said.
WATCH: Susan Rice insists “I leaked nothing to nobody” https://t.co/kAsbu4VJDN
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 4, 2017
The process of unmasking, like many actions within the U.S. intelligence apparatus, is highly secretive and contentious because they themselves are classified and revealing them publicly could be a crime.
And while Susan Rice may not have "known" much in her MSNBC interview, she will have to come up with answers during her sworn testimony.
At which point the only question on everyone's lips will be: will she plead the Fifth?