President Donald Trump said in an interview Wednesday that he believes former national security adviser Susan Rice committed a crime by reportedly requesting the names of his transition staffers who were swept up in foreign surveillance, without providing evidence for that bold claim.
“Do I think? Yes, I think,” Trump told the New York Times when asked if he thought Rice had committed a crime by requesting the unmasking of U.S. persons tied to his campaign.
The Times noted that the President suggested other Obama administration officials could have been involved, but would provide no evidence for either that claim or Rice’s alleged crime.
Surveillance and national security experts threw cold water on the White House’s account of Rice’s actions this week, telling TPM that if there was intelligence value in Rice making such unmasking requests, she would simply have been “doing her job.”
“I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would,” Rice said. “The notion which some people are trying to suggest that by asking for the identity of an American person is the same thing as leaking it, that’s completely false.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) nevertheless announced Tuesday evening that he had asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to look into the matter. Trump appeared equally undaunted on Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” he told the New York Times. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”
He declined to clarify and said he would explain further “at the right time.”