President Trump says that President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime by unmasking names of Trump associates in US intelligence reports collected by intelligence agencies.
Some of Trump's supporters say Rice's actions prove the president's previous claims that he was wiretapped at Trump Tower by the Obama administration.
According to Eli Lake of Bloomberg, Rice "requested the identities of United States persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign". She would not say whether she asked for names to be unmasked, or whether she sought intelligence reports on Trump's associates.
Rice reportedly asked to unmask the identities of people affiliated with the Trump campaign and transition "on dozens of occasions", according to the Bloomberg report.
Rice has come under fire this week amid reports that she was responsible for the unmasking of the identities of Trump associates.
Two weeks ago, she insisted she knew "nothing about this" and was "surprised to see reports" about unmasked information.
Rice also denied that she leaked information to the press, saying "I leaked nothing to nobody".
When foreign surveillance data is collected through intelligence operations, the names of Americans involved in the reports are supposed to be redacted.
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"I think it's going to be the biggest story", the president said.
"Absolutely false", Rice declared Tuesday.
"I think he shouldn't have settled; personally I think he shouldn't have settled", said Trump.
If the information involving Americans has no intelligence value, it is supposed to be destroyed.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) first suggested that he had seen intelligence reports that contained the identities of Trump associates, including some where the names were masked but were easily identifiable. While it was legal for her to do this, it was highly unethical and would be a huge scandal if a Republican senior official sought the names of Democratic political opponents from US intelligence reports. Rice remained a target, however, for conservatives and critics of Obama's handling of the Syrian civil war - and she also made enemies within the government over what critics called her irresolution and micromanagement. Lindsey Graham, a Rice enemy of many years.
An FBI investigation and congressional probes into the Trump campaign and contacts with Russian Federation continue to shadow the administration, each new development a focus of White House press briefings and attention on Capitol Hill.
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