Russia’s supposed interference in the 2016 election has been a hot topic for months, with Hillary Clinton even blaming her loss on vague allegations of foreign meddling.
After it was revealed that the Obama administration may have used that Russian excuse as a reason to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign, questions have swirled regarding former National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s involvement in the scandal.
Americans may not have the answers for a long time. According to the Independent Journal Review, Rice has refused to testify at an open Senate hearing regarding the allegations.
Instead, Rice has said that she would be willing to talk about the concerns with members of Congress — but only if it’s conducted in a classified, closed-door setting.
The core question is simple: Did the former national security advisor improperly “unmask” Trump campaign staff members during unrelated surveillance?
Sen. Lindsey Graham has been leading the charge to uncover the truth about Rice. “I’d like to ask questions of her,” the South Carolina Republican told CNN this week. “I have seen press reports — I don’t know how accurate they are — that she was involved in the unmasking of an American citizen who was incidentally surveilled.”
The scandal involves two overlapping themes: Alleged Russian interference during the election, and the arguably more troubling possibility that the Obama administration used that foreign factor as an excuse to spy on Americans for political gain.
“I believe Russia tried to interfere in our election,” Graham told CNN. “Did the Obama administration try to politicize intel? I don’t know. I’d like to get the answer to both.”
It is not uncommon for intelligence agencies to inadvertently record information about American citizens while conducting surveillance on international figures. Typically, those American identities are redacted from intelligence reports, because they are not the actual subjects of the surveillance and have civil liberty protections under the Constitution.
However, reports indicate that Rice requested those redacted American names to be unmasked dozens of times, most likely to use against Trump’s campaign. If true, the scandal could be one the most improper uses of government power since Watergate.
Graham wants Rice to explain exactly what happened and to set the record straight — in public. A letter from Rice’s attorney flatly declined that request.
“Ambassador Rice is prepared to assist Congressional inquiries into Russian election interference because of the important national interests at stake,” the letter stated, “provided they are conducted in a bipartisan manner, and as appropriate, in classified session.”
In other words, hidden from the American public. A standard hearing would shed light on the questions surrounding the scandal. On the other hand, a classified session would make Rice’s testimony secret — and able to be manipulated by whoever chose to leak selected segments to a media with a vested interest in making the Obama administration look good.
The chances are good that Rice fears a public, televised hearing because she knows exactly where it will find guilt: Squarely on her and other Obama administration figures.
It’s time that Rice answers not only to Congress, but also to the American people.
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