BREAKING — CNN is reporting that former national security advisor Susan Rice, who served under the Obama administration, told House investigators that she internally unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials in order to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year.
Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met with three Trump transition team members last December at Trump Tower. The three people were General Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner; and Steve Bannon, multiple sources told CNN.
The CNN report claims the UAE failed to inform the Obama administration that the crown prince was coming to the United States, thus, leaving the Obama White House concerned.
Rice told House Intelligence Committee investigators that she requested to know the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report of the crown prince’s visit — a practice known as “unmasking.”
Typically, when government officials receive intelligence reports, the names of American citizens are redacted to protect their privacy. But officials can request that names be unmasked internally in order to measure the importance and meaning of the intelligence gathered. In addition, senior officials have the authority to request the unmasking of names if there is a true national security concern.
The Trump administration, as well as several Hill Republicans, had previously suggested that Rice may have inappropriately sought to reveal the identities of transition team officials.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump Tower meeting with Zayed has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill for another reason: It preceded a separate effort by the UAE, brokered by Trump ally Erik Prince, to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
That meeting, held in the Seychelles Islands and initially reported in April by The Washington Post, was reportedly part of an effort by the UAE to persuade Russia to curtail its relationship with Iran.
It’s unclear which officials Rice discussed at the interview with House Intelligence investigators earlier this month, according to CNN. But according to two sources, the three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues involving the Mideast.
Those sources told CNN that opening a back-channel with Russia was not discussed during the December meeting.
“The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team’s view of the region and sharing the UAE’s view of the region and what the U.S. role should be,” a senior Middle East official told CNN. “No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything.”
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