FBI officials should investigate whether former President Barack Obama's national security adviser broke any criminal laws by requesting the identities of Trump campaign officials caught up in foreign surveillance, according to a Republican lawmaker.
"Congress needs to get to the bottom of this and the FBI should be investigating whether any laws were broken," Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said Monday.
Former national security advisor Susan Rice, according to reports, "unmasked" the identities of President Trump's associates who appeared in raw intelligence reports. Rice is already a villain in Republican circles for blaming the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack on an anti-Islam YouTube video, so the revelation plays into GOP claims that President Trump and his team are suffering from politically-motivated leaks originating with Obama-era government officials.
"That Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice is alleged to have been responsible for this unmasking is troubling given her history of deceit and her close relationship with then-President Obama," DeSantis said. "We need to know whether the material gleaned from the Rice unmasking is the material fed to the media in an attempt to do political damage to the Trump administration and, if so, who was responsible for leaking it."
Trump famously tweeted that Obama's team wiretapped Trump Tower, a claim apparently rooted in reports that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had authorized a warrant to probe of the Trump team's ties to Russian officials. The claim was made against the backdrop of former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn's firing after leaks of his phone calls with the Russian ambassador revealed that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the public when discussing the details of the call.
After FBI Director James Comey confirmed that an investigation was underway, but also contradicted Trump's claim that he was wiretapped, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes announced that Trump's team had been caught up in "incidental collection." That's not necessarily a scandal, but he added that the names of those officials had been inappropriately "unmasked" and circulated within the intelligence community. "I felt I had a duty and obligation to tell him because as you know he's been taking a lot of heat in the news media," Nunes told Fox News' Sean Hannity.
Nunes took bipartisan criticism for intervening to burnish Trump's image while investigating Russian interference into the election, but the Rice report could help Trump's allies reset the political fight. "The purported 'unmasking' of the identities of members of the Trump transition team for political purposes is a serious charge that needs a thorough examination," DeSantis said.