South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy has had his differences with former National Security Advisor Susan Rice in the past, most notably after Rice gave false statements about the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi.
But Gowdy is offering up some praise of Rice following her interview with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) last week.
“I thought she gave a very good accounting of herself, frankly, and I’d be the first to say otherwise,” Gowdy told The Daily Caller in an interview on Friday.
Rice met with the committee on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues related to Russian meddling in the presidential campaign.
HPSCI, of which Gowdy is a new member, is one of three congressional panels investigating Russia’s activities during the campaign. But, HPSCI is the only committee taking a close look at whether members of the Obama administration improperly revealed the identities of Trump advisers mentioned in intelligence reports compiled by U.S. intelligence officials. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Gowdy Wonders If Democrats Are ‘Fearful’ That Trump Dossier ‘Is A Piece Of Fiction’)
Names of individuals identified in those documents are usually redacted, though a handful of government officials have the authority to reveal them through a process known as “unmasking.”
Rice has become a central figure in HPSCI’s investigation into who improperly unmasked Trump advisers and leaked their names to the media. Rice, a former ambassador to the United Nations, was identified earlier this year as one Obama administration official who requested unmaskings. The unanswered question has been whether Rice made the requests for political purposes — to undercut Trump — or for legitimate national security reasons.
Gowdy spoke carefully about Rice’s interview, but he did tell TheDC that she spoke with a “lot of specificity” about her activities as national security adviser.
“She stayed longer than she was originally scheduled to say, and I say that as a credit to her, for being willing and taking the matter seriously, and she did,” Gowdy said.
“She answered every question we had and stayed longer than she was originally scheduled to say, and I can’t say that about all witnesses,” he added.
Gowdy said that Rice was “an important witness” in the committee’s investigation, not only because she is aware of U.S. intelligence regarding Russian meddling in the presidential campaign, but she was also involved in crafting the Obama administration’s response to the Kremlin’s activities.
As more evidence has emerged about Russia’s activities last year, the Obama administration has faced heavier criticism for failing to respond more forcefully to Russian cyberattacks on the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee.
Gowdy also said that it was important to speak with Rice because “she’s familiar with the process” of unmasking individuals identified in intelligence reports.
As national security advisor, Rice was one of the U.S. officials authorized to unmask the identities of people mentioned in intelligence reports.
Asked whether Rice improperly unmasked Trump advisers or disclosed classified information to the media, Gowdy said that “there was nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that was the case.
“With a lot of specificity,” Rice “denied ever being a felonious dissemination of classified material. She could not have been more clear about that,” Gowdy said.
Gowdy also said that there is documentation about who requested unmaskings and why they did so.
While Rice has receded as a candidate for the improper unmaskings, attention has recently turned to former UN Amb. Susan Power.
Last month, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of HPSCI, identified an Obama administration official, later identified as Power, as having made hundreds of unmasking requests in the final year of the Obama administration. Nunes asserted that those unmasking requests were followed by unauthorized leaks to the media.
HPSCI has sought an interview with Power and other former Obama administration officials to discuss unmasking.