For the better part of a year now Americans have speculated over precisely what pressing national security issue may have prompted the Obama administration to take the extreme measure of unmasking the names of Trump officials captured in foreign intelligence reports...you know, because bypassing the typical warrant process and violating an American citizen's fourth amendment protections is kind of a big deal.
So what was it...intelligence concerning an imminent terrorist attack...concrete evidence that Putin stole Hillary's emails? No, according to CNN, National Security Advisor Susan Rice ultimately made the call to unmask Trump officials because Obama was offended that the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates traveled to New York last December, after the election mind you, without giving him a heads up first.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.
The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.
The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it's customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama's national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.
Of course, CNN attempts to downplay the gravity of these new revelations but somehow we suspect that Obama getting his feelings hurt over a breach in travel protocol of a foreign dignitary is not a valid reason to spy on American citizens...though we're not lawyers.
CNN noted that it's unclear precisely which Trump officials Rice discussed at the House meeting, and thus which officials were ultimately unmasked, but multiple sources apparently confirmed to them that Zayed met at the time with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. The three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues, including Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process, according to two of CNN's sources who insisted that opening up a back-channel with Russia was not a topic of discussion.
A senior Middle East official told CNN that the UAE did not "mislead" the Obama administration about the crown prince's visit, but acknowledged not telling the US government about it in advance. The meeting, which took place December 15, 2016, the official said, was simply an effort to build a relationship with senior members of the Trump team who would be working in the administration to share assessments of the region.
"The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team's view of the region and sharing the UAE's view of the region and what the US role should be," the official said. "No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything."
Meanwhile, Republican responses on the hearing have been mixed with Trey Gowdy saying it appears as if Rice did nothing illegal while White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply deferred on the legality of her actions.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is helping lead the House investigation, told the Daily Caller "nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude" that she improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates or leaked it to the press.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, did not say explicitly whether Trump still believes Rice committed a crime but added the issue of leaking and unmasking needs to be investigated.
"We've seen illegal leaking of classified materials, including the identities of American citizens unmasked in intelligence reports," Sanders told CNN. "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."
Just to summarize, Susan Rice unmasked the names of American citizens, which effectively means she spied on them without a warrant, because President Obama was offended that the crown prince of the UAE met with the newly elected administration without first giving him a heads up? Does that sound reasonable to everyone?
Then again, maybe this entire story from Rice/CNN is complete bullshit and was only concocted as a way to avoid admitting that the Obama White House was pissed they lost an election and basically turned the entire U.S. intelligence apparatus into a political weapon to dig up any dirt they could find on an adversary.
So, what say you?