Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Andrea Mitchell she found out through the media that her successor, Michael Flynn, was an unregistered agent for the Turkish government. "Did you know at the time he was an unregistered agent for the Turkish government?" Mitchell asked. "No," Rice answered. "When did you learn that?" Mitchell asked. "In the press," Rice responded. Watch the full interview, courtesy of MSNBC: Transcript:
RICE: Well, Andrea, this is not anything political that has been alleged. The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That's absolutely false. Let me explain how this works. I was the National Security Advisor. My job is to protect the American people and the security of our country. That's the same as the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the CIA director. And every morning, to enable us to do that, we received from the intelligence community a compilation of intelligence reports that the IC, the intelligence community, has selected for us on a daily basis to give us the best information as to what's going on around the world. I received those reports, as did each of those other officials, and there were occasions when I would receive a report in which a U.S. person was referred to. Name not provided, just a U.S. person. And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information, as to who the U.S. official was. Let me give you just a hypothetical example. This is completely made up. But let's say there was a conversation between two foreigners about a conversation they were having with an American, who was proposing to sell to them high-tech bomb making equipment. Now, if that came to me as National Security Advisor, it would matter enormously. Is this some kook sitting in his living room communicating via the internet, offering to sell something he doesn't have? Or is it a serious person or company or entity with the ability to provide that technology perhaps to an adversary? That would be an example of a case where knowing who the U.S. person was, was necessary to assess the information. So when that occurred, what I would do, or what any official would do, is to ask their briefer whether the intelligence committee would go through its process — and there's a long-standing, established process — to decide whether that information as to who the identity of the U.S. person was could be provided to me. So they'd take that question back, they'd put it through a process, and the intelligence community made the determination as to whether or not the identity of that American individual could be provided to me. That is what I and the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, CIA director, DNI, would do when we received that information. We'd only do it to protect the American people, to do our jobs in the national security realm. That's the only reason. MITCHELL: Within that process, and within the context of the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, did you seek the names of people involved in — to unmask the names of people involved in the Trump transition, the Trump campaign, people surrounding the president-elect — RICE: Let me begin — MITCHELL: — in order to spy on them, in order to expose them. RICE: Absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, expose, anything. But let me — MITCHELL: Did you leak the name of Mike Flynn? RICE: I leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would. But let me explain this. First of all, Andrea, to talk about the contents of a classified report, to talk about the individuals on the foreign side, who were the targets of the report itself, or any Americans that may have collected upon incidentally, is to disclose classified information. I'm not going to do that. And those people who are putting these stories out are doing just that. I can't describe any particular report I saw, and by the way I have no idea what reports are allegedly are being described by those who are putting out this story. I don't know what time frame they were from, I don't know the subject matter, and I don't know who they think was collected upon. MITCHELL: The allegation is that, in one case, they are alleging in "The Daily Caller", that there was a spreadsheet that you put out of all of these names. RICE: Absolutely false. MITCHELL: And circulated. RICE: No spreadsheet, no nothing of the sort. Let me also elaborate and say that when the intelligence community would respond to a request from the senior national security official for the identify an American, that would come back only to the person requested it. And it would be brought back to them directly. MITCHELL: To you directly. RICE: To me, or to whoever might have requested it, on occasion, and this is important. It was not then typically broadly disseminated throughout the national security community or the government. So the notion that — which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of an American person, that is the same as leaking it, is completely false. There's no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking. The effort to ask for the identify of the American citizen is necessary to understand the importance of an intelligence report in some instances.