Susan Rice: ‘Absolutely false’ that Obama played politics with intelligence

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WASHINGTON — Susan Rice, the former White House national security adviser battling accusations she improperly handled classified intelligence about associates of President Donald Trump, said Tuesday she never used government secrets for political ends.

“That is absolutely false,” Rice said in an interview, arguing that asking intelligence officials for more information about classified reports was a routine aspect of her job.

Conservative media outlets have reported in recent days that Rice requested the identities of Americans included in intelligence reports derived from surveillance of foreign entities.

The names included associates of Trump, which later emerged in media reports as having various ties to Russia.

Rice declined to comment about specific intelligence reports on Tuesday, but said if Trump associates’ names were speaking with foreign officials who were under surveillance, it was “possible” their names could have been gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies.

But she said that even if those names were “unmasked” by a member of the Obama administration, that information wouldn’t be disseminated broadly.

And she insisted she did not play a role in revealing names of Trump associates with connections to Russia to the media.

“I leaked nothing to nobody. I never have and never would,” Rice said.

Trump’s allies have cited the reports about Rice as evidence proving the president’s claim that he was spied upon by the previous administration. Trump first levied the charge on Twitter one month ago, claiming Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

Rice denied those charges Tuesday, saying she was “shocked” to read the claims when they emerged. She said the White House isn’t responsible for ordering that type of surveillance.

She maintained, however, that asking for more information about names included in intelligence reports was a routine and necessary aspect of her job in protecting American security.

“We can’t be passive consumers of this information and and do our jobs effectively to protect the American people,” she said. “Imagine if we saw something of grave significance that involved Russia, China, or anyone else, interfering in our political process and we needed to understand the significance of that. To not understand it would be dereliction of duty.”

Rice said the U.S. intelligence community was ultimately responsible for determining whether to fulfill her requests to receive more information about unnamed U.S. persons included in the reports, and she denied that information was shared widely, even with other government officials.

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