Five months after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes tried to create a fake scandal over Susan Rice unmasking senior Trump officials, the former national security adviser for President Barack Obama has been vindicated.
Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to learn more about why they met with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the 2016 election, according to CNN. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan had visited New York City in December to meet with Michael Flynn, who Trump would appoint as national security adviser, as well as future chief strategist Steve Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Because foreign dignitaries usually inform the government when they travel here, the Obama administration wanted to learn why the crown prince had decided to visit the Trump transition officials. Given that this occurred before an effort by the UAE to assist in establishing a back-channel between Russia and Trump, it seems that legitimate national security concerns motivated Rice.
More importantly, because Rice requested that the Americans' names only be revealed internally, her unmasking did not deviate from accepted and common practice, as officials from both parties seem to agree.
The fact that Rice's unmasking was innocuous raises fresh questions about Nunes' actions. As The New York Times reported at the time:
Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he had learned of new information that Trump associates may have been surveilled in some way. He rushed to the White House to brief the president, even though it was later revealed that the information had come from White House officials.
Nunes acted as he did as the Trump White House fended off criticism for falsely accusing the Obama White House of wiretapping Trump Tower. Earlier this month, the Justice Department found that there was no evidence to support Trump's claim about having been wiretapped.