Max Boot on the Smearing of Susan Rice

Conservative foreign policy expert Max Boot writes about the smearing of former National Security Adviser Susan Rice by Donald Trump and his defenders and asks an important question. Now that their entire argument has fallen apart, which office does she go to in order to get her reputation back? He notes how the argument evolved:

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The Rice affair was an outgrowth of the president’s wild claim, made on March 4, that the Obama administration had engaged in illegal wiretapping of Trump Tower. “Terrible!” he tweeted. “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

There was not, of course, an iota of evidence to support this charge — which Trump clearly made to distract attention from the very real scandal of his campaign’s links to Russia. The tapping story has now been definitively refuted by the Justice Department. “Both FBI and NSD [National Security Division] have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets,” the Justice Department recently wrote in a court filing.

Unable to support Trump’s ludicrous claim on its face, his more creative fans in the fever swamps of the far right tried to come up with fanciful explanations of how the supposed wire-tapping might have occurred. Former Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News that, even though the NSA hadn’t spied on Trump, its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, had done so. Trump appeared to endorse this claim, which was swiftly and angrily refuted by the British government, straining trans-Atlantic relations.

And then came Version 3.0 of the “Obama surveillance scandal,” as some on the right called it: the notion that Rice had illegally unmasked names of Trump associates whose conversations were incidentally collected during the course of wiretapping directed against someone else. This allegation first surfaced April 2 on the Twitter account of Mike Cernovich, a far-right conspiracy theorist who also alleged that Hillary Clinton ran a child-sex-abuse ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.

But Rice did nothing wrong. She did exactly what people in her position are supposed to do, following all the usual protocols, when they are analyzing intercepted communications with foreign officials and need to know the identity of the American citizens involved in those conversations. She had the transcripts of those calls but could not fully understand the context without knowing who that foreign official was talking to.

And as she explained in her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, in this case that foreign official was the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, also that nation’s foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan. The transcripts showed that he was coming to the United States for a meeting with Americans without notifying the government that he was doing so, as is customary. And since she already knew that Abu Dhabi had tried to arrange a secret meeting between Trump officials and Russia via Erik Prince in the Seychelle Islands, she rightly wanted to know if this was related.

Turns out it was. On the other end of those communications were Trump transition officials, who were also carrying out meetings with foreign officials without notifying the State Department, against as is routine and customary. Rice went through all the normal protocols, asking the NSA to reveal the identities of the people the sheik was meeting with and explaining the reasons why. The NSA determined that this was an entirely legitimate request and they granted it. This happens all the time among our national security officials and agencies. It is absolutely routine and normal.

But even after all of this, Trump continues to claim that what she did was wrong. He needs that to be true even though it isn’t, of course, and his standard for right and wrong is “does it benefit me or not.” That’s the only thing that matters to him.

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