You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The White House is predictably overplaying its hand on the “unmasking” story.

The administration is giddy at the reports that Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser, requested that names of Trump campaign officials caught up in surveillance be unmasked. (Currently, the names of Americans are concealed when the United States listens to the conversations of diplomats and other foreign officials, to protect their privacy.) On Tuesday, Trump tweeted out a Drudge Report link:

But there are a lot of unanswered questions about this story, and the answers may not be the ones that Trump wants. We don’t know why Susan Rice wanted the names of Trump team members unmasked, for instance. We also don’t know who she shared the information with, but this is probably classified information, and the leaking of it could be a scandal in and of itself.

The Trump White House is trying to make the case that it is the victim of a massive and unprecedented conspiracy—that the Obama White House ordered unmasking so it could damage Trump and his associates politically. But it is also possible that it was clear from surveillance transcripts that Trump officials were having conversations with Russian intelligence officials that were inappropriate or worse. If Rice was motivated by the discovery of inappropriate or illegal conversations between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, then the unmasking becomes yet another brick in the wall of a Russia investigation that is already obstructing the Trump administration from implementing its agenda.

And yet the White House is treating the Rice news as a slam dunk. It’s easy to forget, amidst the swirl of constant misdirection and insanity, that this is actually a continuation of the flimsy and paranoid claim that Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower. Even before Susan Rice, the White House—with the help of village idiot Devin Nunes—had succeeded in nesting a second, administration-friendly investigation into the larger investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. This secondary narrative has maybe—maybe—muddied the waters of the principal narrative, but it has undoubtedly also caused the Trump administration no end of self-inflicted wounds.