identities of Trump transition team members whose conversations with foreign officials were incidentally collected during routine intelligence-gathering.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”
Trump also said that other Obama administration officials may have been involved in the “unmasking” of the officials’ identities. The president did not say whether he has seen any new intelligence to support his claims.
Rice has denied engaging in any unethical or illegal activities.
“The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilised intelligence for political purposes,” Rice said on MSNBC on Tuesday. “That’s absolutely false.”
The intelligence reports obtained by Rice, who served under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, “were summaries of monitored conversations — primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials,” Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported on Monday.
National-security experts say Rice’s reported requests to identify who was speaking with the foreign officials before Trump was inaugurated were neither unusual nor against the law — especially if, as Lake reported, the foreign officials being monitored were discussing “valuable political information” that required the identity of the people they were speaking to, or about, to be uncovered.
Trump also defended Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday amid reports this week that Fox and O’Reilly paid $US13 million in five settlements with women who claimed O’Reilly sexually harassed them.
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump said, adding that he didn’t think O’Reilly should have settled the lawsuits. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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