For months now, many have speculated that Obama's former National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, was the controversial figure behind all the unmaskings of Trump associates in the waning days of Obama's final term in the White House. That said, new details seem to suggest that Rice's successor as U.N. Ambassador, Samantha Power, may emerge as the administration's convenient scapegoat is this particular scandal.
As the Washington Free Beacon points out today (via some anonymous sources so take it with a grain of salt), Power appears to be central to efforts by top Obama administration officials to identify individuals named in classified intelligence community reports related to Trump and his presidential transition team. If true, Power's role in the unmasking efforts would be particularly questionable since it's nearly inconceivable that her position as the U.N. ambassador would require such sensitive unmasking activities.
"Unmasking is not a regular occurrence—absolutely not a weekly habit. It is rare, even at the National Security Council, and ought to be rarer still for a U.N. ambassador," according to one former senior U.S. official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
"It might be defended when the communication in question relates directly to U.N. business, for example an important Security Council vote," explained the former official, who would only discuss the matter on background. "Sometimes it might be done out of other motives than national security, such as sheer curiosity or to defend a bureaucratic position. Or just plain politics."
The Intelligence Committee's focus of Power and other key Obama officials is a prime example of the Obama administration's efforts to spy on those close to Trump, according to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.
"The subpoena for Power suggests just how pervasive the Obama administration's spying on Americans actually was," said one veteran GOP political operative who has been briefed on the matter by senior Congressional intelligence officials. "The U.N. ambassador has absolutely no business calling for the quantity and quality of the intelligence that Power seems to have been asking for."
"That's just not the sort of thing that she should have been concerned about, unless she was playing the role of political operative with the help of the intelligence community," the source said. "It gives away what was actually going on: the Obama administration was operating in a pervasive culture of impunity and using the intelligence community against their political opponents."
The House Intelligence Committee, which is spearheading the investigation into these efforts, has issued subpoenas for Power and other top Obama administration figures, including former national security adviser Susan Rice, as part of congressional efforts to determine the source of these leaks.
Rice was scheduled to speak to House Intelligence Committee this week, but the meeting was reportedly postponed. Some sources speculated this could be a delaying tactic by Rice aimed at pushing the testimony back until after Congress's summer recess.
Of course, Power's unmasking efforts would hardly be the first time the Obama administration used it's U.N. Ambassador to do it's dirty work. Who can forget that time that Susan Rice went on her infamous apology tour to blame the Benghazi attacks, which claimed the lives of multiple U.S. citizens, on an obscure youtube video that basically no one had ever heard of? Here's a reminder for those who 'do not recall.'
And while most of the country was outraged that Susan Rice went on every major talk show to lie to the American public, her efforts were apparently appreciated by Obama who granted her a promotion to National Security Advisor shortly after the scandal.
Of course, getting the "opposition research" from our intelligence community unmasked is only half the effort...the other half is leaking it to friendly reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post. And that, according to Representative Ron DeSantis, is where Ben Rhodes came in.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Oversight Committee and chair of its National Security Subcommittee, told the Free Beacon last week that these leaks appear to have come from former senior officials, potentially including Ben Rhodes, the Obama national security adviser responsible for creating what he described as an in-house "echo chamber" meant to mislead the public and Congress about the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
"I think Congress and some members on the Intelligence Committee can call Ben Rhodes to testify," DeSantis said. "He may be able to invoke executive privilege from when Obama was president, but he definitely can't do that in any interactions he's had since then."
DeSantis identified Rhodes and other senior Obama administration officials as being "involved with feeding journalists some of these [leaks]. I believe he's in touch with people on the National Security Council. It would be absolutely legitimate as part of leak investigation to bring him in and put him under oath, and I would absolutely support doing that."
Call us cynical but it seems hardly coincidental that Power's role in unmasking Trump associates was revealed just before Susan Rice was set to appear before the House Intelligence Committee. Well played, as always, Ms. Rice.