H.R. McMaster Allows Central Figure In Unmasking Scandal To Keep Top Secret Security Clearance

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster informed Rice in late April that she will be allowed to maintain her clearance, even as she faces allegations that she improperly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials named in secret intelligence reports, according to a letter obtained by Circa.

“I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you ‘originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,’ as National Security Adviser,” reads McMaster’s letter.

“[National Security Council] will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.”

In March, it was reported that prior to leaving office on Jan. 20, Rice made numerous requests to reveal Trump campaign and transition officials named in transcripts of conversations picked up by the intelligence community during surveillance of foreign targets.

Some Trump supporters asserted that Rice unmasked the Trumpworld figures for political purposes, leaking their names to the press.

Rice, who met with the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, has denied both making any improper unmasking requests and leaking classified information. She said that she made unmasking requests as a normal part of her job.

But McMaster’s letter is already being interpreted in two different ways.

Fox News host Sean Hannity, a Trump loyalist, suggested that McMaster should be fired.

But others have a more charitable interpretation of McMaster’s decision on Rice’s security clearance. They say that it shows that Rice’s unmasking requests were not improper and that she did not leak classified information.

One White House official told Circa that McMaster’s letter “undercuts” Trump’s assertion that Rice’s unmasking requests were inappropriate.

“In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” the official told Circa.

While Rice may have been cleared, it remains to be seen whether other Obama administration officials will receive similar reprieve.

In recent weeks, Republican scrutiny over unmasking requests has turned to former UN Amb. Samantha Power and deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes.

California Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recently wrote the director of the National Security Agency seeking data on the number of unmasking requests made by Rhodes in the 13 months prior to Trump’s inauguration. (RELATED: House Intel Chairman: Obama Official Made ‘Hundreds’ Of Unmasking Requests)

Nunes has also asserted that Power made “hundreds” of unmasking requests, including for Trumpworld figures, even though she did not work in an “intelligence-related” field.

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