National security adviser H.R. McMaster told former national security adviser Susan Rice in April that she would continue to have access to classified information, and that he would waive a "need-to-know" requirement when it comes to accessing classified information contained in documents she saw or received during her time as national security adviser, according to a report.
The letter was sent from McMaster to Rice's home in April, according to Circa, and the president didn't know about either the letter or McMaster's decision to allow Rice to keep her Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance.
"Going forward, the NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information," McMaster said in his letter.
"I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know' to access any classified information contained in items you ‘originated, reviewed, signed, or received while serving' as National Security Adviser," the letter continued.
Republicans have worried that Rice was involved in the "unmasking" of members of President Trump's team that were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets, as well as other Americans.
Rice, along with former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reviewed intelligence reports from the National Security Agency's "incidental collections" of names or conversations of Americans, and she and Brennan confirmed they asked for the unredacted names of Americans included in the intelligence reports.
But Rice has also insisted she never revealed the identity of anyone for political reasons, and has said there are legitimate reasons for unmasking people in certain cases.
The House Intelligence Committee has since launched an investigation into the Obama administration's unmasking of Americans, and the committee subpoenaed Rice in June as part of the probe. The former national security adviser agreed to testify, but has maintained she didn't do anything wrong.
Though it's common for top government officials to be given access to classified information, and have their "need-to-know" requirement waived, White House officials told Circa that Rice's security clearance should have been revoked or limited until the Intelligence Committee concludes its investigation.
Trump has continued to argue the Obama administration's "unmasking and surveillance" of those close to him are the "big story."
A senior West Wing official told Circa that the letter "undercuts the president's assertion that Susan Rice's unmasking was inappropriate." The official said anyone who acted as Rice did wouldn't have access to classified information.
"The point is, is that it lowers the bar for her," the senior West Wing official continued.
An intelligence official said McMaster's decision to give Rice continued access to classified information "raises serious legal, moral, and ethical concerns."
McMaster's letter to Rice is likely to elevate his tensions with the West Wing, and specifically White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
McMaster fired Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council's senior director for intelligence, on Wednesday, despite previous objections from Trump and Bannon.
Trump's national security adviser also fired Derek Harvey last week, the National Security Council's top adviser on the Middle East, who was reported to be close to Bannon.