Former President Barack Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice might have committed a crime by requesting the identities of his associates mentioned in communications intercepted by security agencies, President Donald Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday.
Trump would not say if he reviewed new intelligence to support his claim.
Asked if she sought the names of people or unmasked people involved in the Trump transition in order to spy on them or expose them, Rice said, "Absolutely not for any political purposes - to spy, expose, anything".
USA intelligence sources have told Fox News that Rice, President Obama's national security adviser, is responsible for unmasking at least some of Trump team named in surveillance reports.
That prospect arose after news reports that Rice sought the identities of persons close to Donald Trump whose communications were captured in surveillance of foreigners by US spy agencies.
Leaking classified information could be a crime, but no evidence has surfaced publicly that indicates Rice did that and she flatly denied doing so in her interview with MSNBC.
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Rice, Erin Pelton said: "I'm not going to dignify the President's ludicrous charge with a comment".
When asked whether Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by US intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, "Do I think?"
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Trump, asked by the Times, if he believed Rice committed a crime, responded, "Do I think?"
Members of Congress looking into allegations the Obama administration spied on Trump should make the Rice allegations their top priority.
"Well I think the American people have a right to know what was going on".
Nunes said during a March 22 press conference that he was "troubled" because the reports he'd seen were not connected to Russian Federation or any foreign intelligence.
FBI Director James Comey, in the same hearing, would not say how many in his agency have that power.
Trump has also claimed, without evidence, that Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower during the election.
Fox News sources explain that, in most cases, there is an obligation to hide the identities of people on the receiving end of incidental surveillance, though the New York Times reported that various USA intelligence sources vouched for Rice's innocence of any breach of the law. Ms. Rice would have had no obvious need to unmask Trump campaign officials other than political curiosity.
Bloomberg reporter Eli Lake confirmed this in a bombshell April 3 report in which he said the demasked reports "contained valuable political information on the Trump transition". This official and two other intelligence officials said the NSA often receives dozens of such requests in a month.
Here's what we can say about the Rice situation at this point. "She should not have time to be unmasking individuals having conversations". And in the Senate, both Warner and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said they thought it was appropriate.