Obama adviser Susan Rice sought names of Trump officials in intelligence reports

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Former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice was reportedly behind dozens of requests to unmask the identities of U.S. persons swept-up in foreign surveillance reports that connected to the Trump transition.

The revelation, reported by Bloomberg on Monday, apparently emerged from a National Security Council review of the government's policy on unmasking, in which the identities of people in the U.S. who are not being targeted in electronic surveillance, but whose communications get collected incidentally, are disclosed.

Those identities are typically supposed to be minimized, except when that information would provide foreign intelligence value.

Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

James Comey

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

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Rice's conduct would likely meet that broad standard, and it does not appear that she broke the law. The disclosures also do not provide any support for President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated statements on Twitter on March 4 that he had been wiretapped on the orders of President Barack Obama.

However, the information about Rice offers additional context amid at least three investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump team.

SEE ALSO: Trump goes on another early morning tweetstorm about Hillary Clinton and Russia

On the House and Senate intelligence committees, each of which is conducting a Russia inquiry, Republican members in particular have expressed concern about unmasking policies under the Obama administration, warning that the practice could be abused for political purposes.

The developments about Rice's involvement also shed more light on the controversy surrounding House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who announced last month to the press and to the White House – without first meeting with members of his own committee – that he'd seen intelligence reports indicating that Trump associates had been incidentally swept-up in foreign surveillance.

MORE FROM US NEWS: White House Mum on Report That Staffers Helped Supply Nunes with Intel Reports

Notably, the National Security Council review that uncovered Rice's requests was apparently being led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, its senior director for intelligence. The New York Times reported last week that Cohen-Watnick was one of two officials who supplied Nunes with the intelligence reports. Nunes confirmed having viewed the reports on the grounds of the White House.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, was invited to review intelligence reports at the White House on Friday. In a statement, he said that while he "cannot discuss the content of the documents," there was "nothing I could see today" that "warranted a departure from the normal review procedures."

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