Monday, April 23, 2018
Politics

Trump says Obama aide Susan Rice might have broken the law

WASHINGTON — 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.

Trump made the accusation about Susan Rice in an interview with the New York Times and would not say if he reviewed new intelligence to support his claim. He told the Times he would say more "at the right time."

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

Rice, former President Barack Obama's national security adviser, is the latest target for Trump and his embattled defenders. Rice has firmly denied that she or other Obama officials used secret intelligence reports to spy on Trump associates for political purposes.

"Absolutely false," Rice declared Tuesday.

Trump on Wednesday disagreed. When the Times asked him if Rice broke the law, he said, "Do I think? Yes, I think."

The White House has seized on the idea that the Obama administration improperly surveilled the Republican during and after the November election — an accusation Democrats say is just another red herring thrown out to distract attention from investigations of Russian interference in the campaign on behalf of Trump.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House intelligence committee investigation — one of three looking into Russia's role in the 2016 election— was back on track, and Republicans and Democrats have agreed on the witnesses to be called. A congressional aide said there were more than a dozen people on the witness list.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer cast Rice's handling of intelligence in the waning days of Obama's term as suspicious, although he did not detail what he found to be inappropriate.

"The more we find out about this, the more we learn there was something there," Spicer said.

According to a U.S. official, Rice asked spy agencies to give her the names of Trump associates who surfaced in intelligence reports she was regularly briefed on. Rice's official role would have given her the ability to make those requests for national security purposes.

Rice, in an interview with MSNBC, acknowledged that she sometimes asked for the names of Americans referenced in reports. She would not say whether she saw intelligence related to Trump associates or whether she asked for their identities, though she did say that reports related to Russia increased in the final months of the presidential election campaign.

The Trump White House has been particularly incensed that intercepted conversations between Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russia's ambassador to the U.S. surfaced in news reports before the inauguration. Flynn was fired after it became clear that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about the content of those discussions.

Rice denied that she had leaked details about Flynn's call, saying, "I leaked nothing to nobody."

The U.S. official said Rice's Trump-related requests were discovered as part of a National Security Council review of the government's policy on "unmasking" — the intelligence community's term for revealing Americans' identities that would otherwise be hidden in classified reports. The review was prompted by a belief that there were inefficiencies in the current procedures and concerns over a policy change made in the closing days of the Obama administration, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity in order to disclose the sensitive information.

In January, the Justice Department and intelligence officials agreed on new rules giving more U.S. agencies access to raw information picked up abroad by the National Security Agency. Privacy advocates have raised concerns that the new rules — which are yet to be fully implemented — would lead to the information being shared too broadly.

The unmasking review was led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the NSC's senior director of intelligence. Cohen-Watnick has clashed with the CIA and was on the verge of being moved out of his job until Trump political advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner stepped in to keep him in the role.

Cohen-Watnick raised his findings about Rice with the White House counsel's office, according to the official. The counsel's office ordered him to stand down because the lawyers did not want the White House to be running an independent investigation into the prior administration.

Still, the White House has appeared to find other ways to promote the idea that Obama officials were conducting improper surveillance of Trump's team.

In mid-March, House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes abruptly announced he had seen "troubling" information about spy agencies widely spreading the identities of Trump associates. The president's advisers quickly embraced Nunes' revelations, but did not acknowledge at the time that the congressman had viewed the information at the White House with the help of White House officials.

It's unclear if the information Nunes received is the same as the materials involving Rice.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, has called on Nunes to recuse himself from the panel's Russia investigation. Schiff now has seen the same intelligence information as his Republican counterpart and has said nothing in it "justifies such duplicitous conduct" on the White House's behalf.

The U.S. routinely monitors the communications of foreigners. 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.

Rice became a favorite target of conservatives after the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, when she was sent out to do television interviews with talking points about the attacks that later proved to be incorrect. Even Republicans who have been critical of White House efforts to muddy the Russia investigations have said it is imperative to get to the bottom of her handling of Trump-related intelligence.

"When it comes to Susan Rice, you need to verify, not trust," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Comments
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18