Top Republican senator calls Susan Rice 'the Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration'

Sen. Tom Cotton blasted former National Security Adviser Susan Rice amid reports that she tried to learn the identities of officials on President Donald Trump's transition team whose conversations with foreign officials may have been incidentally collected during routine intelligence-gathering operations.

Cotton told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that Rice often seems to get caught up in foreign policy-related controversies from the era of President Barack Obama.

Senator Tom Cotton

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Senator Tom Cotton
HOT SPRINGS, AR - APRIL 26: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton looks for questions in a crowd of supporters at a Republican headquarters office April 26, 2014 in Hot Springs, Ark. Sen. Pryor is in a tight reelection campaign with Republican opponent , U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton. (Photo by Stephen B. Thornton for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Rep. Tom Cotton, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., speaks during a campaign rally in Mountain View, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 30: Rep. Tom Cotton, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., speaks with Conner Cadle, age 6, of Weiner, Ark., at the Jonesboro Victory Office before helping phone bank to get out the vote on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014 in Jonesboro, Ark. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Rep. Tom Cotton, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., poses for photos after speaking at a campaign rally in Mountain View, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Rep. Tom Cotton, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., poses for photos after speaking at a campaign rally in Mountain View, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Senator-Elect, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday Nov. 30, 2014. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 6: Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., his wife Anna and Vice President Joe Biden participate in the re-enactment swearing-in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC MARCH 11: Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) is photographed in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Cotton drafted the letter to Iran signed by GOP Senators. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 13: Freshman GOP Senators pose for a group photo with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in front of the Ohio Clock in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. From left are Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., David Perdue, R-Ga., Michael Rounds, R-S.D., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Dan Sullivan, R-AK, Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and James Lankford, R-Okla. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 20: U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (L) speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R) and John McCain (not seen) in Kiev, Ukraine, on June 20, 2015. (Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Republican Party opened its national convention Monday, kicking off a four-day political jamboree that will anoint billionaire Donald Trump as its presidential nominee. Some 2,000 delegates descended on a tightly secured Cleveland arena where Trump's wife will take center stage later in the day to make a personal pitch to voters that her billionaire husband is the best candidate for the White House. / AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, right, stands inside the Quicken Loans Arena 'The Q' ahead of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Sunday, July 17, 2016. A key Republican National Convention committee crushed a long-shot attempt by rogue delegates to block Donald Trump's nomination, as internal strife that's roiled the party for much of the past decade was on full display Thursday amid fights over governing rules for the next four years. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 1: Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., participates in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's media availability in the U.S. Capitol with Republican members of the Senate Veterans' Affairs and Armed Services Committees to discuss cloture vote on the Milcon/VA appropriations bill cloture vote and next week's National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, waves before speaking during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, July 18, 2016. Republican factions trying to stop Donald Trump's nomination noisily disrupted a vote on party convention rules, displaying the fissures in the party on the first day of its national convention. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Monday, July 18, 2016. Republican factions trying to stop Donald Trump's nomination noisily disrupted a vote on party convention rules, displaying the fissures in the party on the first day of its national convention. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Hewitt noted that Rice had previously said she "knew nothing about" surveillance of Trump officials, but new reporting showed she obtained intelligence reports about contacts between foreign officials and Trump team members. This led Hewitt to speculate that she might have been lying.

Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, then called Rice the "Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy."

SEE ALSO: Obama adviser sought names of Trump officials in intelligence reports

"Every time something went wrong, she seemed to turn up in the middle of it, whether it was these allegations of improper unmasking and potential improper surveillance, whether it was Benghazi, or many of the other fiascos of the Obama administration," Cotton said.

When Hewitt asked if Cotton had ever requested an "unmasking," he said he had not.

"I've never asked for an unmasked name, and frankly it's hard to imagine the circumstances [under which] you would in the ordinary course of business outside of an exceptional review like we're conducting now," Cotton said. "Unmasking normally occurs by law enforcement or intelligence analysts who need it to conduct an investigation or to understand the raw intelligence."

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

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

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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When asked whether the "unmasking" should be the subject of a Senate hearing, Cotton said, "There's no doubt about that."

Cotton said there are "three big issue areas" regarding this story — Russian hacking ahead of the election, which resulted in email leaks from Democratic Party operatives; "conspiracy theories" from Democrats and the media about Trump associates' possible collusion with Russian officials; and potential wrongdoing by Obama administration officials by requesting unmasking of US citizens "without proper grounds."

"That's the only area where we know a crime has been committed because David Ignatius wrote that column about Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and whoever provided that information to him acted outside of the law and we should get to the bottom of that just like we should get to the bottom of the first two issue sets," Cotton said.

National-security experts have said that Rice's reported requests to identify who was speaking with the foreign officials before Trump was inaugurated were neither unusual nor against the law — especially if, as Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported, the foreign officials being monitored were discussing "valuable political information" that required the identity of the people they were speaking to, or about, to be uncovered.

"The identities of US persons may be released under two circumstances: 1) the identity is needed to make sense of the intercept; 2) if a crime is involved in the conversation," Robert Deitz, a former senior counselor to the CIA director and former general counsel at the National Security Agency, told Business Insider.

"Any senior official who receives the underlying intelligence may request these identities," Deitz said, noting that while "the bar for obtaining the identity is not particularly high, it must come from a senior official, and the reason cannot simply be raw curiosity."

Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

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