Susan Rice insisted Tuesday she was just doing her job in asking for the names of American citizens to be unmasked for intelligence gathering last year, but former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy told Newsmax TV the ex-national security adviser's actions were a serious abuse of power.
"I think it's extraordinarily serious," McCarthy stold host Steve Malzberg on Tuesday's "America Talks Live." "I've been trying to underscore to people the difference between what's illegal and what's an abuse of power.
"When Richard Nixon was impeached, or left office on the verge of impeachment, only part of it was a crime in which he had some participation. A lot of the allegations of impeachment against him involved the abuse of power, specifically the abuse of power or attempts to abuse the powers of government agencies like the CIA and the IRS.
"There's a difference between a violation of criminal law and something that makes somebody unfit for political office."
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Sometimes those two overlap, McCarthy told Malzberg, but, in "this instance I think what we're going to find is what happened here was an abuse of power after a lawful intelligence collection."
On Monday, Bloomberg's Eli Lake reported White House lawyers last month discovered Rice had requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports connected to the Donald Trump transition and campaign.
The pattern of Rice's requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government's policy on unmasking the identities of "individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally," according to Lake.
McCarthy said constitutes an abuse of power because "the intelligence collection, to the extent it catches Americans which is inevitable, is one of things that the law really grapples with.
"Because on the one hand we know these powers are very important in terms of knowing what countries that may not have our interest at heart are up to, and at the same time protecting Americans because there's no court order that authorizes the targeting of Americans of these surveillances."
McCarthy – a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and a contributing editor of National Review – was asked whether Rice could claim "executive privilege" if her actions are probed by the FBI.
"Executive privilege belongs to the president, and the president right now is Donald Trump," McCarthy said.
McCarthy is the author of "Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama's Impeachment," published by Encounter.
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