Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Monday said former national security adviser Susan Rice should testify under oath about her reported requests to “unmask” the identities of Americans associated with President Trump in intelligence reports.
Paul was referencing a report by Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake on Monday that said Rice asked for the identities of individuals in intelligence reports associated with Trump’s transition team and campaign, making such requests dozens of times.
The Kentucky senator, while acknowledging he has little information about the matter beyond the news report, called the unmasking an “enormous deal” and indicated that it should be illegal.
“I don’t think we should discount how big a deal it was that Susan Rice was looking at these, and she needs to be asked, did President Obama ask her to do this? Was this a directive from President Obama?” Paul told reporters.
“I think she ought to testify under oath on this. I think she should be asked under oath, did she reveal it to The Washington Post.”
“I think they were illegally basically using an espionage tool to eavesdrop or wiretap — if you want to use the word generally — on the Trump campaign,” Paul said.
The report about Rice appears to be connected to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) claim that information was incidentally collected on members of the Trump transition in foreign surveillance activities and widely disseminated in intelligence community reports.
Nunes made the claim nearly two weeks ago, infuriating his Democratic colleagues by briefing the media and Trump on the information before revealing it to his committee. Nunes said he was particularly concerned with the possibility that Trump associates were “unmasked” in the intelligence reports.
Since then, reports have emerged that officials in the Trump White House played a role in Nunes receiving the information.
Nunes revealed the information weeks after Trump accused Obama of having his “wires tapped” at Trump Tower ahead of the presidential election, a claim that has been widely dismissed by officials and lawmakers in both parties.
U.S. citizens who are caught up incidentally in foreign intelligence surveillance are typically subject to minimization rules to conceal their identities, though there are some exceptions.
But individuals can be exempt from the minimization rules if their identities are necessary to understand the value of the foreign intelligence.
Paul used Monday’s development to renew his push for reform of a controversial provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allows the U.S. intelligence community to target non-Americans outside the United States without a warrant. The provision, Section 702, is up for renewal later this year.
Paul also signaled that he sees Nunes — who has long been an advocate for the foreign intelligence law — as a potential ally for reform.
Nunes previously took issue with the fact that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, had his communications monitored by the intelligence community, which were later the subject of media reports.
“I have been very impressed with Devin Nunes,” Paul said. “All of the intelligence hawks don’t like him because he appears to have found something and he’s willing to talk about it with the president.”
“I think it is inappropriate and it should be illegal,” Paul said of the incidental collection on Americans without a warrant. “I don’t think you should be allowed to listen to Americans’ conversations without a warrant. They are doing it without a warrant. They are targeting a foreigner, and because they are targeting a foreigner they are gathering all of this information on Americans.”
“Is there a possibility that Susan Rice was politically motivated? Let’s ask her why she was opening up all of the conversations with Trump transition figures,” he said.
Paul played a round of golf with Trump over the weekend and hinted that he brought up the need to reform U.S. intelligence activities during their seven hours of play.
“He never said anything to me about it, but I may have given him my opinion on it,” Paul said when asked by a reporter. “I think I told him that it’s probably very explosive.”
Democrats have demanded Nunes recuse himself from the committee’s Russia investigation following his explosive claim, suggesting that it was coordinated with the White House.
Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) was invited to the White House on Friday to view documents related to Nunes’s claims about incidental collection of information on Trump associates. Schiff confirmed that the documents were “precisely the same materials” provided to Nunes, but noted that nothing about them seemed out of step with normal review procedures.
“Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures, and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees,” Schiff said Friday.
“The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House.”