The “bombshell” story broke on Monday.
President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice allegedly made multiple requests to “unmask” the identities of Trump officials whose communications were “incidentally collected” during legal surveillance of foreign targets.
By Monday evening, CNN’s Don Lemon made his network’s position clear: “We will not aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you.”
Lemon came out swinging:
“No surprise, it comes from Fox News. And no surprise, it does not support the president’s claim that the Obama administration spied on him.
It has been one month since the President of the United States falsely tweeted that former President Obama wiretapped him. [..] The president and the White House are still trying to make a lie true.”
He emphatically insisted that “no evidence whatsoever” exists to support the accusations against Rice:
“Today it’s a claim that President Obama’s former National Security Adviser Susan Rice unmasked the names of Trump associates. […] Let us be very clear about this. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team […] was spied on illegally. […]
And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who are trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.”
CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto said he “spoke with someone close to Ambassador Rice” who claimed Rice did nothing improper:
“Well just a short time ago, I spoke with someone close to Ambassador Rice, and this is the first comment from someone close to Rice today on these allegations. I’ll read it in quotes.
‘The idea that Ambassador Rice improperly sought the identities of Americans is false. There is nothing unusual about making these requests when serving as a senior national security official, whether Democrat or Republican.'”
But during a March interview with PBS News Hour, Rice claimed to know nothing about charges by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) that communications of Trump transition officials, including Trump, may have been gathered during surveillance of foreign targets:
“I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that count today. […] I think it’s important for people to understand what ‘incidental’ means.
That means that the target was either a foreign entity or somebody under criminal investigation, and that the Americans who were talking to those targets may have been picked up.”
Despite Lemon’s rush to absolve Rice, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sees it differently:
Smoking gun found! Obama pal and noted dissembler Susan Rice said to have been spying on Trump campaign.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) 03. април 2017.
As Fox News reported, Paul called on Rice to testify before Congress on the charges:
“I don’t think we should discount how big a deal it was that Susan Rice was looking at these, and she needs to be asked: Did President Obama ask her to do this? Was this a directive from President Obama?
I’m not going to comment on this any further until [congressional] committees have come to a conclusion.”
As is the case whenever someone is accused of a potential crime, a rush to judgment before facts are gathered and testimony is given is typically seen as irresponsible.