In the latest strange twist in the investigation of Russian interference into the election, former Obama National Security Advisor Susan Rice has declined to appear before the Senate Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on Monday.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the subcommittee’s Republican chair, announced on Tuesday that he wanted Rice to testify alongside former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. But on Wednesday, Rice declined the invitation.
That drew a pair of tweets from President Trump Thursday morning:
Susan Rice, the former National Security Advisor to President Obama, is refusing to testify before a Senate Subcommittee next week on.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2017
...allegations of unmasking Trump transition officials. Not good!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2017
By Trump standards, that’s positively restrained. But the reasons why Rice declined the invitation make for an interesting story.
In March, Representative Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, made vague accusations that the Obama White House had acted inappropriately with intelligence involving members of the Trump transition team. Nunes’s allegations were tough to parse: He argued that Trump aides’ information had been “incidentally collected,” the intelligence community jargon for what happens when American citizens who are not subject to warrants are swept up in surveillance of lawful targets. Names and information about people who are incidentally collected are supposed to be redacted, or “masked,” unless officials request to see them through a formal process. Nunes claimed there had been excessive unmasking. (Nunes was later forced to recuse himself from the investigation after ethics complaints about his handling of it.)