Former Obama national security adviser Susan E. Rice said Tuesday that she “absolutely” never sought to uncover “for political purposes” the names of Trump campaign or transition officials concealed in intelligence intercepts, and she called suggestions that she leaked those identities “completely false.”
“I leaked nothing, to nobody, and never have and never would,” Rice said in response to the latest charges and countercharges flowing from politically charged investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election.
Since they were first reported over the weekend, the Rice reports have quickly overtaken the steady drumbeat of revelations about connections to Moscow that have dogged President Trump for months. On Tuesday, the subject dominated cable news and flooded Twitter.
“RICE ORDERED SPY DOCS ON TRUMP?” the president retweeted, with a link to the Daily Caller and a Drudge Report headlined “Boiled Rice.”
A number of Republican lawmakers said that Rice should be called to testify before congressional inquiries into what U.S. intelligence has said were Russian efforts not only to roil the presidential race, but also to tip the scales in Trump’s favor.
“If the reports are right, then she will be of interest to us,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which, along with its House counterpart and the FBI, is investigating the matter.
“When it comes to Susan E. Rice, you need to verify, not trust,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview with Fox News. “I think every American should know whether or not the national security adviser to President Obama was involved in unmasking Trump transition figures for political purposes.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called Rice the “Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration.”
Beyond Trump’s tweets, however, the White House was uncharacteristically restrained on the subject, as its media and Capitol Hill allies expressed outrage on its behalf. “It’s not for me to decide who should testify or how they should do it,” press secretary Sean Spicer said.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called the attention focused on Rice a diversionary tactic. He has also called on the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R), a Trump transition official and fellow Californian, to recuse himself from the investigation. The White House, Schiff said, has a “strong desire . . . that we lose our focus, that we not pursue the investigation of Russia, particularly as it might impact the Trump campaign.”
At the same time, Schiff told CNN, Rice has long been a target of what he called the “Breitbart crowd . . . the hard right” since the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Four U.S. officials were killed in an extremist attack that…