Susan Rice did no one any favors today.
The former national security adviser appeared Tuesday on MSNBC to respond to reports alleging she personally requested the identities of "masked" Americans in U.S. intelligence reports linked to President Trump's transition team and campaign be "unmasked."
Though Rice denied any sort of wrongdoing, she did it in such a confusing and cagey way that her cable news appearance raised more questions than it answered, which is presumably the opposite of what she wanted to accomplish.
"The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes – to spy, expose, anything," Rice said. "That's absolutely false."
Left unexplained: Who defines "political purposes," and how?
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell then asked in reference to Trump's former national security adviser: "Did you leak the name of [retired Gen. Michael Flynn]?"
Rice's answer to this straightforward question was anything but illuminating.
"I leaked nothing to nobody," she said, "and never have and never would."
That's a tidy double negative. Does that mean she leaked something to somebody?
It's entirely possible Rice misspoke in the moment, and that she simply garbled her words into something nearly unintelligible. Then again, it's not out of the ordinary for a career bureaucrat to sit behind carefully parsed sentences that offer cover and plausible deniability.
At any rate, Rice's aim Tuesday was presumably to put out the "unmasking" fires. She didn't quite do that.
The person who reportedly discovered that Rice had made several "unmasking" requests was Ezra Cohen-Watnick, according to the Bloomberg report. Cohen-Watnick was brought into the Trump administration by Flynn, who resigned just a few weeks into his term as national security advisor after it was revealed he had misrepresented his previous communications with Russian officials to Vice President Mike Pence.
On Tuesday, Rice volunteered an insider's look at how certain intelligence is collected by the federal government.
"There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to, name not provided," Rice said.
"They would take that question back, they would put it through a process, and the intelligence community would make a determination about whether the identity of that U.S. person could be provided to me," Rice said. "And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information, as to who the U.S. official was."
"The effort to ask for the identity of the American citizen is necessary to understand the importance of an intelligence report in some circumstances," she added.
This is some detailed information, and from former President Obama's national security adviser no less!
It's also a long ways away from when Rice said on March 22 that she knew "nothing" about the intelligence community's incidental collection of information on Trump's transition team following the Nov. 8 election.