Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice insisted Tuesday she was simply doing her job by asking for the names of American citizens to be unmasked for intelligence gathering purposes last year, and she said she did not leak anything to the media.
In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Rice addressed a report Monday that said she played a role in revealing to the nation's intelligence community Americans' names — more specifically, people in President Donald Trump's inner circle.
"Not for any political purposes," Rice told Mitchell when asked if she ever unmasked the names of anyone on the Trump campaign or transition teams.
Rice then denied leaking any names or information.
"I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would," Rice said.
Multiple times during the interview, Rice said her role in former President Barack Obama's White House included looking at intelligence reports in the form of communications between American and foreign citizens on a daily basis. Some of those reports required follow-ups on her part to find out who the Americans were.
"I received those reports as did each of the other officials, and there were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to," Rice explained.
"Name not provided, just a U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information, as to who that U.S. official was."
When asked about what she might have done regarding members of Trump's team, Rice would not comment and said there was a tried-and-true process in place.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairs the House Intelligence Committee and said last month a source at the White House showed him evidence incidental intelligence was collected on U.S. citizens close to Trump last year.
"I can't get into any specific reports," Rice said. "I don't know what Devin Nunes reviewed at the White House. 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. To get beyond that is to disclose classified information, and those people who are doing that are doing something very wrong."
Rice made it clear there was no direct intelligence collection on anyone in Trump Tower — although she admitted people in the president's Manhattan skyscraper could have had their communications intercepted if they were talking to foreigners.
"There was no such collection or surveillance on Trump Tower or Trump individuals . . . The president of the United States and people in the White House do not have the ability to order such collection."
It has been alleged the pace of unmasking the names of U.S. citizens picked up after Trump won last November's presidential election. Rice would not comment on whether that was true, but she did say, because of the intelligence community's investigation into claims Russia interfered in the election, there was an increase in reports that came across the desks of high-ranking intelligence officials in the Obama administration.
"If you're asking, were there more reports provided to senior U.S. officials after the president requested the compilation of the intelligence, which was ultimately provided in January, yes," Rice said.
"As the intelligence community went about the business of fulfilling the president's request for such a report [on Russian hacking], they went back and scrubbed more reports. They began to provide more such reports to American officials, including myself."
Earlier Monday, meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Rice misled Americans about what happened during the 2012 Benghazi attack, and so her role in the unmasking of U.S. citizens during her time in the Obama White House should be investigated.
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