Politics & Policy

Newly Declassified Susan Rice Email Contradicts 2017 Claim That She Had No Knowledge of Trump Campaign Surveillance

Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks at a conference in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Former national security adviser Susan Rice in April 2017 publicly denied knowledge of surveillance of incoming Trump administration officials.

During a 2017 interview on PBS’s News Hour, Rice said she was “surprised” by reports from then-House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) that communications from Trump and other officials may have been swept up as part of surveillance activities against foreign actors.

The comments are contradicted by a newly-declassified January 20, 2017, email that Rice sent to herself, in which she acknowledges the surveillance operation.

“We’ve been following a disclosure by [Chairman Nunes] that in essence, during the final days of the Obama administration, during the transition after President Trump had been elected, that he and the people around him may have been caught up in surveillance of foreign individuals and their identities may have been disclosed. Do you know anything about this?” anchor Judy Woodruff asked Rice.

“I know nothing about this,” Rice answered. “I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today.”

Rice emphasized that Nunes had said the surveillance was “legal and lawful” and a “potentially incidental collection.”

In her email-to-self, which was declassified earlier this month by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, Rice said that Comey had “no indication” that Flynn was passing classified information to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, but stipulated that Comey was nevertheless wary of sharing sensitive information with Flynn due to the frequency of his contacts with Kislyak.

“President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially,’” the email reads. “He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’”

Grennell declassified the email along with a list of officials who asked to “unmask” Flynn. The list includes former vice president Joe Biden and Obama White House chief-of-staff Dennis McDonough.

Before the PBS interview, Rice told MSNBC that it was “absolutely false” that the outgoing Obama administration had used unmaskings for political purposes.

“I received those reports, as did other officials, and 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,’” Rice said. “And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance in the report – and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request, who that U.S. official was.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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