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Trump-Russia

Susan Rice's explanation for why she 'unmasked' Trump officials raises new questions about Trump's team

Last week, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice told the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors that she had requested the identities of U.S. citizens whose names were redacted in U.S. intelligence reports last December because she wanted to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was making a secret visit to the U.S., breaking protocol by not informing the Obama administration, multiple sources told CNN. The "unmasked" Americans turned out to be members of Donald Trump's presidential transition team, and Rice reportedly discovered that Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Stephen Bannon, and other Trump officials had met with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in New York.

After the Dec. 15 meeting, al-Nahyan helped set up a secret meeting in the Seychelles islands between a Trump envoy, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reported in April. (Prince said he was just there "for business," and not for Trump.) But in the three-hour-long meeting, Nahyan and the top Trump officials did not discuss Russia or setting up back-channel communications, two sources told CNN. Instead, they reportedly discussed Iran, Yemen, and the Mideast peace process.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has mostly recused himself from the Russia investigation, accused Rice of improperly unmasking Trump officials, and Trump — who jumped on Nunes' statements to claim vindication for his since-disproved accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him — accused Rice of committing a crime. Few other officials saw anything improper in Rice's actions, and "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," CNN reports. You can read more at CNN.