Ex-Obama adviser: Trump's attack on Rice 'authoritarianism'

Ex-Obama adviser: Trump's attack on Rice 'authoritarianism'
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President Trump's claim that former national security adviser Susan Rice may have committed a crime is “authoritarianism," according to a former national security adviser to President Obama. 

Ben Rhodes dismissed the controversy swirling around Rice over the "unmasking" of Trump officials in intelligence reports. He said such requests have long been routine in the White House.

Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that Rice may have committed a crime by requesting the name of at least one Trump transition official be unmasked in intelligence reports. 

“Do I think? Yes, I think,” the president said.

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“I think it’s going to be the biggest story. It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time,” Trump added.

Rice dismissed the allegations Tuesday on MSNBC, denying that she inappropriately unmasked Trump associates’ names, leaked information or that it was done for political purposes. 

“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes,” Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “That’s absolutely false.”

Rice also denied knowledge that the Trump administration surveilled Trump associates last month on PBS’s “News Hour.”

“I know nothing about this and I was surprised to hear reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today,” Rice told PBS, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

The House and Senate Intelligence committees are still investigating whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. The investigation is looking at the president’s accusations that the Obama administration surveilled Trump and his associates before he took office, as well as potential ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin.

Nunes announced last month that the Obama administration could have incidentally collected intelligence on Trump transition aides during surveillance.