Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.
The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.
The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.
Rice’s previously undisclosed revelation in a classified setting shines new light on a practice that had come under sharp criticism from the committee chairman, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and President Donald Trump, who previously accused Rice of committing a crime.
But her explanation appears to have satisfied some influential Republicans on the committee, undercutting both Nunes and Trump and raising new questions about whether any Trump associates tried to arrange back-channel discussions with the Russians.
“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican helping to lead the panel’s Russia invesigation, told CNN of Rice’s testimony. He declined to discuss any of the contents of her classified remarks.
Through a spokeswoman, Rice declined to comment about her testimony. Nunes refused to answer questions when asked about Rice Tuesday evening.
It’s unclear precisely which Trump officials Rice discussed at the House meeting. But multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that Zayed met at the time with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. The three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues, including Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process, according to two sources who insisted that opening up a back-channel with Russia was not a topic of discussion.
Still, the fact that the New York meeting occurred prior to the Seychelles session and that the UAE did not notify the Obama administration about why the crown prince was coming to the United States has raised questions in the eyes of investigators on Capitol Hill.
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SOURCE: CNN, Manu Raju