The optics of the Susan Rice revelations

The 'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," April 4, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That's absolutely false. There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just a U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out or request the information as to who that U.S. official was. I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.

I know nothing about this. I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: I believe Susan Rice abused the system and she did it for political purposes. She needs to be brought in and questioned under oath.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, there you see the back and forth. Obviously Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, knew something about that because she talked about it today, even though there was a double negative about the "I did not, not leak." But the point being that the discussion was different than her answer to Judy Woodruff on PBS.

This as Democrats are saying hey, listen, this is no big deal. This is Senator Coons.


SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DEL.: There is nothing unusual or alarming about the allegations here about the national security adviser. She would have had to articulate and intelligence justification for doing that. This is exactly why we need a strong and thorough investigation to make sure that where there are allegations made they are thoroughly investigated.


BAIER: Let's start there, and there are other developments as well today on this front. Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, editor in chief of The Weekly Standard; Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today, and editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham. OK, Laura, your take?

LAURA INGRAHAM, LIFEZETTE.COM: An intelligence source I spoke to before I came on said it would be highly unusual for a political person at the National Security Council to request the unmasking of individuals in these types of reports. Usually this type of information is pursued by the investigative body, not by the political apparatus of the president.

And then if it looks like what happened, that these reports were widely then distributed to underlings, including unmasked names, there's really no reason to ever do that except for political reasons. There was no -- I presume there was no imminent threat of a terrorist attack of the United States. And if that had been the case, she would have then given that information to the investigative bodies that would have been in charge of dealing with it, but that's not what Susan Rice seems to have done.

At the very least, she has a lot of questions to answer. It will be interesting to see whether she claims executive privilege, which would indicate that the president had some discussion with her or someone in their executive capacity of this matter.

BAIER: Susan, we have reporting that there is some of this involved intelligence, ray intelligence, that does not deal with Russia and deals with extraneous things that had nothing to do with what we are talking about currently, day to day here in Washington. What is your take on the Susan Rice explanation today with MSNBC?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: Her explanation to MSNBC was quite at odds with her explanation to PBS a while back where she said she didn't know anything about it. And she is heaven sent to Republicans because this of course is going to be investigated, and if there was political reasons for her request for unmasking or if she leaked them in political ways, of course that's wrong and ought to be pursued.

But one thing I think Democrats will continue to point out is this is irrelevant to the larger investigation into whether there was any collusion by Trump associates with Russians in the meddling of the campaign.

BAIER: Maybe is not irrelevant -- maybe it's two tracks. Brit Hume talked about two tracks yesterday, that there are really two investigations here, what was unmasked and what was leaked and the investigation --

PAGE: I think that's right. And you have one investigation Democrats are very eager to pursue and one investigation Republicans are eager to pursue, and I tell you both are going to be pursued over the coming months.

BAIER: National Review, Andrew McCarthy, Steve, writes in a piece "Susan Rice's White House unmasking, a Watergate style scandal. There would have been no intelligence need for Susan Rice to ask for identities to be unmasked. If there had been a real need to reveal the identities, an intelligence need based on American interests, the unmasking would have been done by the investigating agencies. The national security adviser is not an investigator. She is a White House staffer. The president's staff is a consumer of intelligence, not a generator or collector of it. If Susan Rice was unmasking Americans, it was not to fulfill an intelligence need based on American interests. It was to fulfill a political desire based on Democratic Party interests." Again, Andrew McCarthy in NRO.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: He is one of the smartest analysts on these questions. I don't agree with him entirely on that particular point. I think there could be an intelligence need for a national security adviser to ask these kinds of unmaskings, and the reporting I've done talking to former NSA officials suggests that that's happened in the past.

What I think is most striking about Susan Rice's interview today with Andrea Mitchell is that she said it was not uncommon for her to ask for these kinds of unmaskings. That is different. Certainly everybody I have talked to with experience in this area says that such unmasking would be uncommon. She is saying they're not uncommon. How often did she do this and in what other circumstances?

But what I think is so striking about this is Susan Rice is a well-known serial prevaricator. We know this. She's been caught in this instance in an obvious lie. This specific question about these specific unmaskings, as Susan suggests, how is it that reporters aren't going nuts asking her questions about this? Why is she lying? Why did she lie about this?

BAIER: This is a developing story. Howard Kurtz could do a whole segment on who is covering this.

HAYES: There's a very interesting experience with one of our reporters today who was up on Capitol Hill asking what I think are the obvious questions. Given the news in the Eli Lake story yesterday, these are the obvious questions to ask. Why did she say this? How often did she do this? And why did she lie about it? And one of our reporters on Capitol Hill was asking members of the intelligence committees this question. Not only did she say that she was the only one really asking these questions, but other reporters who were asking questions of them at the same time were looking at her as if she were crazy. These are serious questions and we need answers.

INGRAHAM: Remember after the Benghazi fiasco and she went on the four Sunday shows and it was a videotape that caused the attack, that in and of itself would disqualify most people in corporate America from being able to represent a corporate interest if they had been shown to have told an untruth to the extent that she did.

Remember, she wanted to be secretary of state and she wasn't going to be confirmed, so they had to put her over at national security. And that was rewarding her to the extent that they could reward her after Benghazi. So I think credibility is supposed to be important in Washington.

And I think you are right, Steve. Where are all these reporters? Are they staking out her house? Are they at the Brookings Institution tonight trying to get more of an answer? "There were occasions I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to." How many occasions? Did anyone direct you to do this? Who? Did the president know about this? Did the vice president know about it? Did Ben Rhodes know about it? Did the White House counsel's office know about it? There are a lot of questions --

BAIER: Did the FBI director know about what was happening?

INGRAHAM: Bingo. But there's a lot of questions that are unanswered here tonight, and it seems like there are a lot of reporters that should be asking these questions.

BAIER: On the flipside, Susan, on the other investigation, the other track, The Washington Post headline "Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establishment Trump-Putin backchannel." This is Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater who also happens to be the brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, tied to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, raised a lot of money for the Trump campaign, held this meeting in the Seychelles and met with Russians, he says, in his statement, had no role, "Erik had no role in the transition team. A complete fabrication," basically that the meeting had something to do with President Trump or the Russians. "Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence committee messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists." Some are saying this is another shoe in the restaurant investigation.

PAGE: You know, it's true there's nothing necessarily wrong with Erik Prince meeting with this Russian. It could be something that should create no suspicion at all. It is, however, one of a series of meetings with high-ranking and well-placed Russians and people who had some kind of tie to President Trump's campaign that have raised these questions. And that's why we're going to have -- you wonder why we aren't asking questions about -- she's going to be asked questions. Do you think there's any chance she won't be called up to testify?

INGRAHAM: Why are the reporters not staking out the Brookings Institution? Where are they?

HAYES: In some cases it's not just that reporters aren't asking the questions. Chris Cuomo this morning on CNN said he called this fake news based on the say-so of a Susan Rice associate. That's not journalism.

INGRAHAM: The Washington Post didn't cover it at all.

HAYES: How can you not ask the question?

INGRAHAM: The A section of The Washington Post had not a single story about Susan Rice, not one.

BAIER: All right, all right, again, a Howard Kurtz special. But to Susan's point, there are a number of she was the other investigation that will also raise questions of why these meetings happened.

INGRAHAM: I have no idea what Erik Prince is doing or not doing, but I would say so what? Erik Prince knew a Russian who knew Putin and Erik Prince, so what? What is the big deal? Has this ever happened?

HAYES: If it's just one back channel, there's a so-what aspect to it. I think if you look at back channel after back channel after back channel after back channel, you have to start asking questions. I think we should no more. Were those back channels operative? Were they trying to get anything? We should be asking questions, too. We should be asking questions both sides. We know so little at this point, it's important to ask questions, and it worries me on either side of the argument when reporters are saying we really don't really need to ask these questions.

INGRAHAM: Bring him up to testify. I'm sure he'll testify. It seems like a lot of these people are offering to testify. I don't know if Susan Rice will.

BAIER: We would like Erik Prince, we would like Susan Rice to come right here on "Special Report." You're invited to answer some more questions.

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