CNN "New Day" host Chris Cuomo on Tuesday dismissed recent reporting that Obama administration official Susan Rice requested the "unmasking" of members of President Trump's transition team and campaign as nothing more than right-wing propaganda.
"President Trump [and] right-wing media types [are] peddling a fake scandal," Cuomo reported, when opening an interview with Rep. Jim Hines (D., Conn.).
"This suggestion that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice improperly unmasked the identity of Trump associates is part of what the president calls a crooked scheme," Cuomo said. "An associate of Rice says it's just plain false."
Cuomo's comments came after CNN's Jim Sciutto dismissed the story as "largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger [Russia] investigation," also citing assurances from a friend of Rice. Before joining CNN, Sciutto served as chief of staff to Obama's China Ambassador Gary Locke.
Bloomberg reported Monday that the Trump administration had discovered Rice's involvement during a National Security Council review of the "government's policy on ‘unmasking' the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally." The Wall Street Journal and Circa reported the same.
Typically, when U.S. citizens get caught up in incidental surveillance of foreign actors, their names are redacted. "Unmasking" private U.S. citizens to make their names appear on intelligence reports is not illegal when tied to a legitimate investigation, but civil libertarians warn the process could be used to skirt regulations that prevent the federal government from spying on Americans.
When asked on "PBS NewsHour" about claims that the Obama White House had "unmasked" Trump team officials, Rice denied all knowledge.
"I know nothing about this," she said. "I was surprised to see reports from [House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes] on that count today."