Susan Rice declines to testify on Russian hacking before Senate panel

Susan Rice declines to testify on Russian hacking before Senate panel
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Susan Rice will not testify before a Senate subcommittee next week about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 race. 

The former national security adviser under President Obama declined an invitation from  Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump Roberts sworn in to preside over Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on crime and terrorism. According to a letter sent by Rice’s lawyer, Rice refused to testify because the senior Democrat on the subcommittee was not involved in the invitation.

“Senator [Sheldon] Whitehouse [D-R.I.] has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham’s invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan investigations extended to other witnesses,” Rice’s lawyer Kathryn Ruemmler wrote in the letter obtained by CNN.

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“Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham’s invitation to testify.”

A source familiar with Rice’s discussions told CNN that she originally believed Graham’s invite was a bipartisan overture and was ready to accept it. However, Whitehouse told CNN he did not believe her presence was relevant to the hearing’s topic. Rice reportedly now considers Graham’s invite “a diversionary play” to distract attention from the probe into Russia’s election intrusions last year.

Graham said Tuesday that he wanted Rice to testify in order to clarify “reports” about her request that the identities of U.S. citizens be revealed in intelligence reports during probes into Russian meddling in the election.

“I’d like to ask questions of her,” he told CNN. “I have seen press reports – I don’t know how accurate – that she was involved in the unmasking of a U.S. citizen who was incidentally surveilled.” 

Trump accused Rice last month of improperly unmasking U.S. citizens, specifically members of his campaign, caught up in incidental surveillance. The identities of U.S. citizens are typically redacted in intelligence reports.