Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - House debt vote today; Biden struggles to unite Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ark.) on Tuesday called former national security adviser Susan Rice the “Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy” after being asked whether she lied about surveilling President Trump’s associates.
“Every time something went wrong, she seemed to turn up in the middle of it,” Cotton said of Rice during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
"Typhoid Mary" was the nickname for a woman named Mary Mallon, who became known as the lethal carrier of the typhoid germ while she worked as a cook in New York City the 1910s. She was blamed for 51 infections, leading to three fatalities.
Cotton questioned Rice’s denial on PBS’s “News Hour” last month, when she said she had no knowledge of the Obama administration surveilling Trump associates.
“I know nothing about this and I was surprised to hear reports from Chairman [Rep. Devin] Nunes [R-Calif.] on that account today,” Rice said then, referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman.
A Bloomberg View piece by Eli Lake on Monday said that Rice requested Trump transition aides' names in raw intelligence reports.
“Whether it was these allegations of improper unmasking and potential improper surveillance. Whether it was Benghazi, or many of the other fiascos over the eight years of the Obama administration. If Eli Lake’s reporting is correct, it’s hard to square his reporting with what Susan Rice said in that PBS interview,” Cotton added.
Rice in a midday interview Tuesday on MSNBC denied inappropriately unmasking members of Trump's team, rejecting allegations that she asked names be identified in intelligence reports for political purposes.
“It's not necessarily illegal. It is unusual though," Cotton said in an interview Tuesday afternoon on CNN's "The Lead."
"The White House doesn't conduct criminal investigations or counterintelligence investigations. The White House is a consumer of intelligence. Normally, those kinds of unmasking requests would be done by the agencies responsible for those activities,” he said.
Cotton said Rice should testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee if her testimony is deemed “necessary” to the investigation.
“It is one reason why I think the Senate Intelligence Committee needs to take a careful approach and review the documents and to call Miss Rice to testify if necessary,” Cotton added.
The House and Senate intelligence committees are broadly investigating whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, including Trump’s accusations that the Obama administration surveilled Trump and his associates before he took office as well as possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.
Nunes announced last month that the Obama administration could have inadvertently collected intelligence on Trump transition associates during a broader intelligence probe.