Susan Rice, the national security adviser under President Obama, explained during an interview with the House Intelligence Committee last week why she unmasked members of the Donald Trump transition team.
CNN reports that Rice told the committee in a closed-door interview that she sought the names of senior Trump officials in order to find out why Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, decided to visit New York late last year.
Zayed met with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon on Dec. 15, sources told CNN.
Rice at one point earlier this year was at the center of allegations that she improperly unmasked Trump transition officials who were identified in reports compiled by the intelligence community.
But in an interview last Friday, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy hinted in an interview with The Daily Caller that Rice did not improperly unmask anyone on the Trump team. Nor did she leak classified information to the media, as some Republicans have suggested. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Trey Gowdy Discusses Susan Rice’s Unmasking Controversy)
Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican member of the House panel, told CNN that he did not hear any indication of illegal activity on Rice’s part during last week’s meeting.
“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” Rooney said.
According to CNN’s sources, Rice and the Obama administration were interested in Zayed’s trip to the U.S. because they felt misled by the UAE. The Arab nation did not tell the U.S. government that Zayed would be making the trip, though foreign governments usually notify the U.S. when dignitaries are traveling here.
Rice requested the unmasking of Americans who were identified in intelligence reports about the meeting.
The meeting with Zayed was of particular interest to U.S. officials because it came just before the UAE helped set up a line of communications between the U.S. and Russian governments.
Erik Prince, a Trump ally and the founder of the defense contractor Blackwater, met with an unidentified associate of Vladimir Putin’s in January in the Seychelles Islands.
The meeting part of a sprawling federal investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign, though Prince has denied that the meeting was improper.
The Washington Post reported in April that the Prince meeting was part of an effort to convince Russia to alter its relationship with Iran.