Trump tells newspaper Obama aide might have broken the law

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his predecessor's national security adviser might have committed a crime when she asked government analysts to disclose the names of Trump associates documented in intelligence reports.

In an interview, Trump declined to tell the New York Times whether he had reviewed intelligence to bolster his claim about Rice but said he would explain himself "at the right time". Lawmakers probing the surveillance of key officials in the Trump campaign and administration say the intelligence agencies now nominally under the president's control are stonewalling efforts to get to the bottom of who revealed names and leaked protected information to the press.

Unmasking is a term used by the intelligence community to describe the process of unveiling the identity of a USA person who appears in a classified foreign intelligence report.

As Obama's national security adviser, Rice said her job was to protect the American people, and in order to do that, she said she received a compilation of intelligence reports every morning from the intelligence community to provide her team with the best information about what was going on around the world.

Ben Rhodes dismissed the controversy swirling around Rice over the "unmasking" of Trump officials in intelligence reports.

Congressman Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, has viewed the material in question and has said that the reports were of no intelligence value nor did they have anything to do with Russian Federation.

Rice denied that she had leaked details about Flynn's call, saying, "I leaked nothing to nobody". Trump said the following day that he believed Rice had committed a crime.

The reaction on social media suggests people are beginning to take this story more seriously, suggesting Watergate may pale in comparison.

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The National Security Council (NSC) has reportedly been tasked with looking into the matter. The identities of Americans who talk with those foreigners, or who are discussed in conversations between two non-U.S. persons, are masked in intelligence reports. On Wednesday, she said of Trump's comments, "I'm not going to dignify the president's ludicrous charge with a comment". The President offered no evidence to back up the allegation.

Neither does House Intelligence Committee Chair David Nunes. Unmasking does occur, but it is typically done by intelligence or law-enforcement officials engaged in anti-terror or espionage investigations.

On Thursday, Nunes announced he had been the subject of accusations to the House Ethics Committee related to the White House episode, ones he called baseless.

Asked directly by Fox News if Rice may have broken a law, Trump did not mince words.

"This is information about their everyday lives", he said.

Trump took to Twitter last month to accuse President Barack Obama of having wiretapped him at Trump Tower, his NY skyscraper, during the campaign.

Graham and his colleagues pilloried Rice following the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, after she appeared on TV in Washington and said the deadly raid had been caused by protests over an incendiary anti-Muslim video. After ruling out USA enforcement agencies, the heads of whom have denied any wiretapping, Spicer said Obama used GCHQ to do his bidding instead.

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