CNN Partisan Cuomo Spins Susan Rice Story as ‘Another Fake Scandal’

April 4th, 2017 11:02 AM

On Tuesday, CNN New Day anchor Chris Cuomo sidestepped reports that Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have abused her authority in unmasking intelligence reports regarding communication between President Donald Trump's transition team and Russia. Instead, he blasted outlets like Fox News: "President Trump wants you to believe he is the victim of a 'crooked scheme,' his words. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact if anything, the NSA asking for identities was foreign players. The White House blasting the press for not reporting on another fake scandal being peddled by right-wing media."

The report also consisted of conflating the terms "wiretapping" and "surveilled." President Trump tweeted last month and accused Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

"We're at a space where intelligence is routinely politicized," national security correspondent Jim Sciutto said. He waved away concerns of Rice's intentions behind the unmasking: "Susan Rice at the center of President Trump's latest attempt to renew his unproven wiretapping claim and divert attention away from his team's contacts with Russia.”

Sciutto added, "A source close to Rice telling CNN that allegations that she did anything unusual or improper [is] ‘false.’ The White House blasting the media for ignoring this ginned up scandal."

At Monday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, "From a media standpoint somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest we've seen in some of these public revelations and reporting that has gone in that direction we've seen and some other directions that we've seen."

Moreover, the CNN report adopted talking partisan talking points, such as playing two interviews from Democratic representatives Jim Himes of Connecticut and Eric Swalwell of California, dismissing these concerns over Rice. "Officials stress unmasking names in intelligence reports is a routine procedure, something different from leaking this information to the press," Sciutto said.

Himes said in a CNN interview, "If somebody feels intelligence value there's procedures you go through and lawyers look over your shoulder, so there's nothing unusual about unmasking."

Swalwell took Himes' remarks a step further and said on the network, "We believe this is nothing more than a record to roll more smoke bombs into an investigation that was making progress."

Sciutto accused the Trump administration, which he said "tried to distort comments made by a former Obama defense official, Evelyn Farkas." Last week, conservative media noted a March 2nd interview Farkas did with MSNBC's Morning Joe. The former Pentagon's top expert on Russia, Farkas said, "I had a fear that somehow that [intelligence] information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left, so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy ... that the Trump folks – if they found out how we knew what we knew about their ... the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.” 

Sciutto ended his report and acknowledged, "There are legitimate questions about unmasking. How easy does the law unmask names of Americans caught up in the surveillance of foreigners. Those are legitimate questions."

He added, however, "But based on what we know now, there is nothing unusual or certainly illegal about the unmasking done by former Obama officials."

While there may be nothing illegal about unmasking, the Rice speculation may be related to intelligence reports leaked to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Former Bush National Security Council official Michael Doran penned in The Hill, "The issue that has recently seized [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin] Nunes is of vital importance to anyone who cares about fundamental civil liberties...Regardless of how the government collected on [former National Securty Adviser Michael] Flynn, the leak was a felony and a violation of his civil rights."

Doran added, "The leaking of Flynn’s name was part of what can only be described as a White House campaign to hype the Russian threat and, at the same time, to depict Trump as Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate."

The Daily Caller's Richard Pollock reported Monday that according to former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, "What was produced by the intelligence community at the request of Ms. Rice were detailed spreadsheets of intercepted phone calls with unmasked Trump associates in perfectly legal conversations with individuals."

Here is the transcript of the April 4th report:

New Day


6:00:05 AM – 6:04:58 AM [4 min., 53 sec.]

CHRIS CUOMO: President Trump wants you to believe he is the victim of a crooked scheme, his words. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing. In fact if anything, the NSA asking for identities was foreign players. The White House blasting the press for not reporting on another fake scandal being pedaled by right-wing media. This is Day 75 of the Trump Presidency, and we do have it covered. Let's begin with CNN's Jim Sciutto live in Washington. Busy night for you, my friend. 

JIM SCIUTTO: We're at a space where intelligence is routinely politicized. But even the terms of intelligence are deliberately distorted. I've spoken to the most senior former intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations. They say definitively unmasking is not leaking. It is routine. It is something that senior national security officials do on a regular basis to get a better understanding of the intelligence reports they every day. It's legal. There are protocols put in place since 9/11 to allow this to happen. It cannot be done alone, requires the approval of the intelligence community. That information is not widely disseminated. It's between the briefer and that senior national security official whoever it is, including Secretary Rice. I've spoken to people close to Secretary Rice. It is their position that she -- reports that she improperly unmasked identity are, in their words, false. This appears to be an attempt to back justify unfounded claim president Obama surveilled him.  

Susan Rice at the center of President Trump's latest attempt to renew his unproven wiretapping claim and divert attention away from his team's contacts with Russia. President Trump seizing on conservative media reports that claim that Ambassador Rice unmasked the names of Trump Transition officials caught up in routine surveillance. At its core, this was surveillance for apparently political reasons tweeting that he was spied on before the nomination and calling it a crooked scheme. A source close to Rice telling CNN that allegations that she did anything unusual or improper, ‘false.’ The White House blasting the media for ignoring this ginned up scandal. 


SEAN SPICER: From a media standpoint somewhat intrigued by the lack of interest we've seen in some of these public revelations and reporting that has gone in that direction we've seen and some other directions that we've seen.

SCIUTTO: Officials stress unmasking names in intelligence reports is a routine procedure, something different from leaking this information to the press. 


JIM HIMES: If somebody feels intelligence value there's procedures you go through and lawyers look over your shoulder, so there's nothing unusual about unmasking. 

SCIUTTO: The administration's latest justification, a far cry from President Trump's initial claim one month ago, President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, an accusation that Mr. Trump that attempted to redefine.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That covers surveillance and many other things. 

SCIUTTO: And justify even after his own FBI director refuted the claim. 


TRUMP: I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks. 

SCIUTTO:  Last week the Trump administration tried to distort comments made by a former Obama defense official, Evelyn Farkas. 


SPICER: Dr. Farkas’ admissions alone are devastating.

SCIUTTO: This to support President Obama spied on him. She said her comments were widely misinterpreted. The week before that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes got wrapped up in the White House diversion. 


DEVIN NUNES: The President needs to know these intelligence reports are out there. 

SCIUTTO:  Briefing the Commander in Chief and media before his own committee about classified information about incidental collection on the president's associates. 


TRUMP: I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. 

SCIUTTO: Trump calling Nunes’ announcement ‘vindication.’ Days later it turns out officials inside Trump’s White House were the original source of the documents shown to Nunes. 


ERIC SWALWELL: We believe this is nothing more than a record to roll more smoke bombs into an investigation that was making progress. 

SCIUTTO: Now, there are legitimate questions about unmasking. How easy does the law unmask names of Americans caught up in the surveillance of foreigners. Those are legitimate questions. But based on what we know now, there is nothing unusual or certainly illegal about the unmasking done by former Obama officials. Chris and Alisyn.