Again, nothing on the public record so far shows that anyone on Team Trump said anything improper on those calls.
It’s no surprise that US spooks intercept foreign officials’ calls. But intelligence community reports don’t disclose the names of US citizens on the other end. To get that info, a high official must (but rarely does) push to “unmask” the Americans’ names.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake now reports that Rice started doing just that last year.
That was perfectly legal. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the “unmasked” transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.
The motive for that was (supposedly) to prevent Team Trump from burying it all once it took over. But the result was that it made it relatively safe for someone (or someones) to leak the info to the press.
Which made it likely somebody would leak. So Team Obama’s “spread the info” initiative certainly broke the spirit of the laws.
Those leaks have produced a nagging political sore for the new administration — leading to the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn, helping to drive down President Trump’s approval ratings and making it harder for him to push his program through.
Rice certainly wasn’t politically naive about the political uses of intelligence information. She was, after all, the Obama official who famously made the rounds spouting the false “Our intel says it was about the video” line on the Benghazi attack back during the 2012 campaign.
All of this puts the actions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in clearer perspective. After viewing the Rice requests at the White House, he disclosed that Trump officials had been caught up in incidental surveillance.
All of which is a reminder that two issues are in play here: Russian meddling in the election, about which the nation already knows plenty — and the Obama team’s efforts to sabotage Team Trump.