Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was quick to pounce on a report that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the names of U.S. persons be unmasked in intelligence reports discussing Donald Trump and his transition staffers as proof the Obama administration used intelligence agencies to target the President.
“This is eerily similar to what Trump accused them of, which is eavesdropping on conversations for political reasons,” Paul said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I believe Susan Rice abused the system and she did it for political purposes. She needs to be brought in and questioned under oath,” Paul added later in the show. “This was a witch hunt that began with the Obama administration, sour grapes on the way out the door. They were going to use the intelligence apparatus to attack Trump, and I think they did.”
Despite outrage from Trump’s supporters, experts say it would be within Rice’s rights to order names of Americans to be unmasked if there was some intelligence value, and particularly if that information pertained to an investigation.
Paul said that Rice should explain why she allegedly unmasked the names of Trump and his staffers. The previous day he called the report a “smoking gun” on Twitter.
“The smoking gun is that President Trump said he was wiretapped,” he elaborated on MSNBC. “We don’t have wires in our phones anymore. Nobody actually literally taps a wire. They might on occasion, but for the most part, we used the term ‘wiretapping’ to mean eavesdropping. We know that someone in the Obama administration was eavesdropping and specifically searching a database.”
Over protests from the other “Morning Joe” panelists and co-hosts, Paul said that “it’s a mistake to downgrade” the Obama administration’s actions by observing that information on Trump and his associates was incidentally collected in the course of surveillance of foreign nationals. Paul argued that it’s a form of surveillance, even though there’s no evidence that Trump was the subject of any surveillance conducted by the Obama administration.
“Here’s the thing is, you can order the specific, you know, listening device, or you can say, ‘You know what? We already have it,'” Paul said.