By: Roger Aronoff | Accuracy in Media
What started out last year as an investigation by the Obama administration into Russian interference in our presidential elections has turned into the latest scandal involving both former President Barack Obama and his national security adviser, Susan Rice. The media are in full panic mode, attempting to keep the focus of the investigation on President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, while trying to shield Obama and Rice from the consequences of their actions.
What has become clear during the past week is that the focus of the investigation should clearly be shifting from alleged collusion between President Trump’s associates and the Russian government, in order to influence the election—for which no evidence has emerged—to the role of the Obama administration in surveilling, incidental or otherwise, unmasking and leaking information about the Trump campaign and transition teams, for which all sorts of evidence has emerged.
The question for the Republicans, who control every congressional committee as well as the executive branch, is whether or not they have the fortitude and integrity to ignore the pressure from the corrupt, liberal media and to expand or re-direct the investigation wherever the new evidence compels them to go.
The latest development is the unmasking of former national security adviser Susan Rice. Rice was outed this week as someone who requested the unmasking of people associated with Trump’s campaign and transition team.
As Accuracy in Media reported in a recent special report, “Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice has now been implicated in illegally unmasking Trump campaign and post-election Trump transition officials in monitored conversations, according to Bloomberg News and Fox News. The story was originally broken by Mike Cernovich, who has more of the details including the cover-up of Rice’s role by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who was trying to protect Rice and Obama.”
In fact, Cernovich later revealed that his sources were people inside both Bloomberg and The New York Times “who revealed that both Eli Lake (Bloomberg) and Maggie Haberman (NYT) were sitting on the Susan Rice story in order to protect the Obama administration.”
The media went into full protection mode. A panel on CNN’s 360 With Anderson Cooper was confident that Rice had done nothing “improper.” Why? Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national security correspondent, who worked at the Obama State Department when Susan Rice was UN Ambassador, defended Rice, saying that this story was “largely ginned up, partly as a distraction.” CNN’s Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo also dismissed the story, with Lemon saying that the Susan Rice story is a “fake scandal ginned up by right-wing media and Trump,” and that he wasn’t going to be baited into covering it. What little coverage it received on the three broadcast networks’ evening news shows was focused on Rice’s claim that she had done nothing “improper.”
Comments made in February and March by former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas, but only noticed and highlighted last week, did a lot to shift the narrative. But the establishment media refuse to acknowledge that shift, and are determined to keep Trump, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Russia as the villains of what everyone agrees is an enormous scandal, if only they could agree on what that scandal is.
“It was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can before President Obama leaves the administration,” said Farkas on MSNBC on March 2. She also said that “The Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump’s staff’s dealings with Russians that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence” (emphasis added).
Farkas’ comments appear to serve as confirmation that the Obama administration was spying on Trump’s staff during the 2016 election. That was reinforced through the reporting of Fox News’ Adam Housley, who wrote that “Susan Rice, former national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama, requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance.” He added that “The unmasked names, of people associated with Donald Trump, were then sent to all those at the National Security Council, some at the Defense Department, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan—essentially, the officials at the top, including former Rice deputy Ben Rhodes.” According to Housley, “The names were part of incidental electronic surveillance of candidate and President-elect Trump and people close to him, including family members, for up to a year before he took office.”
Note that Farkas said “we” when referring to intelligence issues, and the Trump staff’s Russian contacts. As the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, she left the Obama administration in 2015, yet she was boldly talking about intelligence matters and informing the Hill while out of office.
As for leaks, she told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, “That’s why you have the leaking: people are worried.”
As that story was swirling, accusations that Rice had been requesting the names of intelligence officials listed in an intelligence report began to emerge, including a Wall Street Journal report that said Ms. Rice “examined dozens of other intelligence summaries that technically masked Trump official identities but were written in such a way as to make obvious who those officials were,” making the masking essentially meaningless. “Unmasking does occur, but it is typically done by intelligence or law-enforcement officials engaged in antiterror or espionage investigations. Ms. Rice would have had no obvious need to unmask Trump campaign officials other than political curiosity.”
Former prosecutor and National Review contributor Andy McCarthy wrote that “the reported involvement of former national-security adviser Susan Rice in the unmasking of Trump officials appears to be a major scandal—it suggests that the Obama White House, of which she was a high-ranking staffer, abused the power to collect intelligence on foreign targets, by using it to spy on the opposition party and its presidential candidate.”
He said that while it may not have broken the law, “The issue is not technical legality, it is monumental abuse of power.”
Before Rice was outed for her involvement in the unmasking and possible distribution of the information obtained from the intelligence community, she had denied having any knowledge of “the intelligence community’s alleged incidental surveillance of Trump’s transition team” when she appeared with Judy Woodruff on the PBS Newshour on March 22.
After the articles appeared this week citing Rice’s role, she went to the friendly confines of an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Rice acknowledged her role in requesting the unmasking of certain people picked up in the incidental surveillance, but claimed it was normal, and nothing improper or illegal was done. “Imagine if we saw something of grave significance that involved Russia or China or anybody else interfering in our political process and we needed to understand the significance of that, for us not to try to understand it would be dereliction of duty.”
But Rice has a history of making provably false statements to protect Obama. Her comment about a “dereliction of duty” reminded me of her role in the Obama administration’s cover-up following the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Yes, she lied on five Sunday talk shows about what led to the attacks on September 11 and 12, 2012. But in addition, our Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi identified another dereliction of duty: the Obama administration’s failure to send in the military to attempt to rescue the Americans who were under attack at the CIA Annex near the Special Mission Compound. Four Americans died in the attacks, others were wounded.
Rice also lied for the Obama administration when she said that Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter in Afghanistan who the Obama administration traded for five high-ranking Taliban terrorists, had served in the military “with honor and distinction.” This latest controversy further highlights why I recently questioned Susan Rice as an appropriate person to criticize President Trump’s credibility, which she did in an op-ed in The Washington Post. Rice must be put under oath to explain what she did with the names that were unmasked, who she was communicating with about it, and what Obama knew and when he knew it.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.