Trump tells newspaper Obama aide might have broken the law

Mark Wilson  Getty Images File

The president did not offer any evidence for his claims.

Rice has since denied the claim, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from saying otherwise.

"This was a witch hunt that began with the Obama administration, sour grapes on the way out the door", Paul said Tuesday of the reported requested unmasking of Trump campaign officials by former national security adviser Susan Rice. "That's absolutely false." She added that she had nothing to do with leaking information about such intelligence collection, which has fueled the KremlinGate story and led to Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, to resign.

Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for Rice, said, "I'm not going to dignify the president's ludicrous charge with a comment".

The intelligence reports at the center of the Susan Rice unmasking controversy were detailed, and nearly resembled a private investigator's file, according to a Republican congressman familiar with the documents.

"There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a USA person was referred to, name not provided, just a US person, and sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of that report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that USA official was", she told Andrea Mitchell, explaining the role of a national security adviser. Officials typically "unmask" Americans if it is deemed necessary for understanding the information. The list of unmasked individuals reportedly reached authorities at the National Security Council, as well as individuals at the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

When a name is unmasked it is only provided to the official who requested it, and therefore unmasking is not equivalent to leaking the name.

Because of that, Axelrod said, "I think the national security adviser probably advised the President that things would go better if Mr. Bannon returns to a more appropriate role".

Those reports, which Nunes revealed in a news conference and were the foundation for a briefing he provided to the president, were uncovered by National Security Council officials working in the White House who, The Washington Post reported, secretly passed them on to Nunes.

He would not say whether there was any new intelligence that would support his claims but said instead that he would explain himself "at the right time". "When she was turned down - the NSA fears breaking laws for any White House, since they know they will be left holding the bag in the end - Rice kept pushing".

Rice has come under fire this week amid reports that she was responsible for the unmasking of the identities of Trump associates.

If Rice or someone else in the Obama administration did request the unmasking of Trump associates, would it be a crime?

There is a new twist this morning in the investigation of whether Trump officials worked with Russian Federation to influence the election. But as national security adviser, Rice was authorized to ask an intelligence agency — such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the CIA and the NSA — to unmask a US person.

"I leaked nothing to nobody", she said.

President Trump addresses a joint news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 5.

The House Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, praised Nunes' recusal.

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