Where does the Susan Rice story go from here?

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 3, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: Did National Security Adviser Susan Rice have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen's name?

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Any national security adviser would I think as a matter of the ordinary course of their business.

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I was not aware of any orders given to disseminate that kind of information, so I have no idea whether that was the case.

BLAKE BURMAN, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Does the White House believe Susan Rice may have done anything illegal?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to start going down that road. There is a troubling direction that some of this is going in, but we're going to let this review go on.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-CALIF.: I can't say whether anything was masked or unmasked improperly. And the White House seems to be doing everything it can to point in other directions and say do not look here. There is nothing to see here.


JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: Oh, but there is plenty to see here. One of the biggest stories of the already eventful Trump presidency, perhaps of this decade, with Fox News confirming President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice ordered the unmasking of her successor, retired General Mike Flynn, in coded intelligence reports that she was receiving through U.S. surveillance on foreign targets. That highly classified information was then leaked by whom we don't yet know to the news media, ultimately costing Flynn his job and possibly more trouble to come.

Ahead of these disclosures which were first reported by Mike Cernovich, an independent journalist, then by Eli Lake of Bloomberg View with others, including our own Adam Housley in Los Angeles and yours truly contributing, President Trump was on Twitter posting Sunday morning, and I quote, "The real story turns out to be surveillance and leaking. Find the leakers."

Our panel, I'm pleased to tell you, will do that right here on set right now: Guy Benson, he is political editor at, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor at Real Clear Politics, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at The Federalist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, friends all.

Mollie, should we be surprised to find Susan Rice at the center of this story?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Ever since Devin Nunes came out and talked about this unmasking and dissemination, I sort of assumed it would someone much lower level, and also not someone who was in the White House. This is not a minor flunky. This is Obama's right hand woman. This makes it from an already pretty serious allegation to something much bigger.

ROSEN: A.B., where does this story go from here do you think?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, it's important to remind their viewers, as I often do, I think I did two weeks ago, that although people want to confuse the two, unmasking is not leaking. Unmasking is not wiretapping. Unmasking is not surveillance. And so while Devin Nunes lied about this, President Trump lied about it, Susan Rice lied about this, and this revelation about Susan Rice could be anything from a scandal to a crime, we have to find that should be a separate investigation. Who leaked it? Was the unmasking that she did in fact legal? A piece said it might have been legal.

But really, that is different from an allegation that President Obama ordered wiretapping. So it's not actually a story -- it's about two separate things and there might be two separate wrongs, but unmasking is not wiretapping and not leaking. It's the leaking that's a problem, and that's a crime.

ROSEN: We don't have time to parse out all the lies you just ascribed to official Washington, but what was the lie you are saying Devin Nunes, the chairman --

STODDARD: He lied to Wolf Blitzer and to Eli Lake about his sources. Everyone at home can look it up. He lied to both those people.

HEMINGWAY: I think that's unfair. He was talking about the White House confirming --

STODDARD: He said he had intelligence, he said he had an I.C. source. He did not. He had a White House source who brought him to that stuff.

ROSEN: So you can prove that in addition to the White House officials who allowed him on the ground, he did not have an intelligence community source, you can prove that?

STODDARD: Eli Lake wrote a column busting Nunes the following tapered. He has ruined his credibility on this issue. Susan Rice ruined her credibility a long time ago and she lied about this 10 days ago. I'm saying that what Susan Rice probably did is definitely worth an investigation. It is not the same as talking about wiretapping.

ROSEN: Here is what one prominent senator from -- well, I guess he caucuses with the Democrats but I think he's an independent, Senator Angus King of Maine had to say about all of this.


SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE: That really obscures the much, much larger issue of what did the Russians do in our campaign, how did they do it, was there a relationship with one of the other of the campaigns?


ROSEN: So is that the real big story, Guy Benson?

GUY BENSON, TOWNHALL.COM: It is one of the big stories, but not the only one. This is the line that we've heard from Democrats and their allies for weeks now, which is there's only one thing that matters, and that's Russia and what did Russia do, what did they not do. I believe that is an important question to have resolved and ought to be checked very thoroughly, but they have simultaneously argued the questions about the leaks, these new questions about unmasking, why was Susan Rice asking for this unmasking to take place, I think it's a lot harder to argue now that that's sort of a side story, a side tail that we shouldn't really pay much attention to. I disagree.

ROSEN: Chairman Nunes has said, for the record, that if you review, which of course not many of us will have the opportunity to do, but if one reviews this paper trail around these intelligence reports and the names that were unmasked, the context of these reports, that it leaves no explicable purpose for the unmasking other than to try to damage the incoming Trump administration. Here's what we heard today via Twitter from Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security advisor under Susan Rice at the Obama White House. He said "They will always try to make story of Russia interfering to help Trump about anything other than Russia interfering to help Trump. Won't work." Charles, will it work or won't it work, or is that what they're doing?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: A lot of the media are playing along with it, but it's not going to work because you have to ask yourself where does Rhodes or Senator King gets to divine authority to decide what is the issue and what's not the issue? There are several issues. The Russian intervention obviously is an issue, and it's simply cheap and I think it's simply not credible to say this other story is just a smokescreen. Clearly there was some improprieties in the gathering of information about the Trump people. There probably was felony committed in the leaking of the information about General Flynn.

The story today about Susan Rice is, well, if she did order or she did allow herself to go in and then to unmask all these people, the question is this -- was it in pursuit of national security interests, in which case it's proper, or was it not, in which case it's improper, possibly illegal. That's an important story because you don't want to have -- look it could be the reverse for years or eight years from now. One party that controls the intelligence apparatus and gets the information using the information as a weapon against the other party, this is an issue that, until this election campaign, was one about privacy and the misuse of power, Democrats would've argued. But now they are pretending is not an issue. It is an issue. There are several. The idea that there can only be one at a time is simply silly and partisan.

ROSEN: Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: Even the issue of legality is somewhat of a red herring for a couple of different reasons. When you look at Watergate, the big scandal wasn't that a robbery took place.

ROSEN: Burglary.

HEMINGWAY: A burglary took place. Those take place all the time. The issue was spying on political opponents. And that is what concerns American people.

The other issue is that civil libertarians have actually been concerned about this type of legal practice that actually violates civil liberties of people under our rules regarding surveillance. And you have the very same people who claim to care about these things suddenly not caring when we are actually seeing evidence of it happening.

ROSEN: In fairness to Susan Rice, we want to play a little bit about what she said for herself when she was asked a little over 10 days ago on PBS about published reports that she and her colleagues in the Obama administration were circulating this kind of information widely, again, with the purported intent of damaging Donald Trump and his associates.


RICE: I think our interest was, and the president's direction was, let us make sure that we have compiled and put together in one place all the information that we have so that it's there for the new administration, it's there for the American people, and there for Congress to utilize as they see fit.


ROSEN: We only have about 15 seconds. Guy, do you think James Comey can lead and impartial and fair investigation into this angle, the unmasking and leaking?

BENSON: I think he can. I hope he does. And with all due respect to Ms. Rice, she is famous for lying on national television about Benghazi. So her credibility I think in the eyes of many Americans is shot.

ROSEN: Very quickly, A.B., do you agree with that?

STODDARD: I think that she lied when she was asked about this unmasking. She said she doesn't know anything about it. You didn't play that actual clip, but she lied about this. Her credibility is shot, and I think James Comey no matter what outcome as a result of this investigation will have critics on at least one side because of the way he conducted himself.

ROSEN: That seems safe to say.

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