EXECUTIVE

Who is Susan Rice? Obama administration stalwart at center of scandals

Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake provides insight into his Susan Rice report

 

Susan Rice, the Obama administration official accused of revealing the names of Trump transition officials under surveillance, is no stranger to controversy, and was once at the very center of the uproar over the Benghazi terror attack.

Multiple sources have told Fox News that the former UN ambassador and national security advisor Rice requested that the names of Trump transition officials caught up in surveillance be made public. That would contradict what Rice recently told PBS, when she said she knew "nothing" about the claims that Trump transition officials, including President Trump, may have been swept up in the surveillance of foreigners at the end of the Obama administration.

Under the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Americans who turn up incidentally on surveillance of foreign targets must have their identities "masked." Although Rice and other key intelligence community officials had the authority to order the names unmasked, the information cannot then be revealed for reasons other than national security.

"I regret that the information I was provided was wrong."

- Susan Rice, explaining her comments following the Benghazi attacks

The revelations are rocking Washington, but it is not the first time Rice has found herself in the eye of the storm.

In 2012, Rice, who was then serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five different Sunday talk shows to suggest that the Benghazi terror attacks were the result of spontaneous protests over what she called a “hateful” Internet video.

E-mails uncovered after the fact revealed that administration officials knew the Benghazi attacks were the result of terrorism, not an internet video, and indicate that even folks within the State Department were stunned by Rice's appearances. One State Department employee suggested Rice had gone "off the reservation."

Just a few months after her Sunday show appearances, Rice was blaming the intelligence community and admitting that at least part of the information she was disseminating "turned out to be wrong.

"I regret that the information I was provided was wrong," Rice said in an interview. "That doesn’t make me a liar. That makes me a public servant trying to say what we knew at the time."

It was less than a year later, in June 2013, that Rice was tapped by President Obama to serve as National Security Advisor. At the time, then-Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland, now White House Deputy National Security Adviser, wrote that Rice would be a "disaster" in the post.

"[Rice] has zero credibility with the media, on Capitol Hill, with the foreign policy community and foreign leaders, and is so badly tarnished by the Benghazi scandal that she walks into the job on Day One weak and wounded," according to McFarland.

McFarland added that the most concerning aspect of Rice’s resume was “her disastrous performance on the Sunday talk shows peddling the administration’s fairy tale on Benghazi; when she was either complicit in the cover-up or incompetent. Either she knew what really happened and deliberately lied to the American people or she was a mere actress who read the script she was given and didn’t know enough to question whether the words she spoke were accurate."

In a video for the Council on Foreign Relations, four former National Security Advisors indicated just how close the person in the role of national security adviser can be with the commander in chief, and exactly how much power that person wields.

Sandy Berger, who held the post in the Clinton administration, said it "reflects how the president wants to conduct foreign policy," but added that the job "is really at least four roles wrapped in one."

Those roles, Berger said, include: being a personal advisor to the president, running what's called the inter-agency process (the meetings convened by the president between government agencies), overseeing the implementation and execution of a president's policies, public speaking and sometimes negotiating.

Former National Security Adviser Colin Powell was more explicit about how much power comes with the territory.

"You know that you are about to make a recommendation that is going to be approved or not approved by the President of the United States," adding that those recommendations can "become the position of the United States of America," he said.

Just under a year into her tenure as a National Security Advisor, Rice found herself in the headlines again. This time, Rice drew the ire of many by offering what seemed to be kind words for accused Army deserter, Bowe Bergdahl, in 2014.

Bergdahl was accused of deserting his unit, and seeking out the enemy back in 2009. His fellow soldiers searched the deserts of Afghanistan for their missing brother, and five Taliban prisoners were eventually exchanged for his release. When Rice was asked about the accusations against Bergdahl upon news of his return, she suggested "anybody who has been held in those conditions... has paid an extraordinary price."

Rice added that she believed Bergdahl "served the United States with honor and distinction," something that Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer called “the biggest whopper” since her Benghazi comments.

Rice would go on to defend her “honor and distinction” comments in a subsequent interview, suggesting "what we need to care the most about is his health and wellbeing and recovery."

Rice is a former Rhodes Scholar who served as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State from 1997-2001 (the youngest-ever in her position). She was named "One of the Most Powerful Women in Washington" by Glamour magazine in December 2016, and was the first African American woman to be named U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. In 2004, she spent some time as an advisor for John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Shortly after President Obama's second term ended, Rice signed with the talent agency Creative Arts Agency, a group whose membership also includes former senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. The agency also boasts Hollywood icons like Robert Downey Jr. and Matthew McConaughey as clients, along with NFL Legend Peyton Manning, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

 

Most recently, Rice signed on as a Distinguished Visiting Research Fellow with American University, where she will apparently begin work on a new book.