REVEALED: Source who “unmasked” Trump team during surveillance was…

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Devin Nunes came forward with explosive revelations last month that a number of Donald Trump’s associates were surveilled during the campaign. The official line of defense has been that they were incidentally surveilled as part of a probe into potential Russian interference in the election, but Fox News is now reporting that an intelligence source familiar with those targets said they were spied on long before Trump became the GOP presidential nominee in mid-July, and that citizens affiliated with Trump’s team who were unmasked were not associated with any intelligence about Russia or other foreign intelligence.

That was March 31st – and just three days later Bloomberg News unmasked what may be the key player in all of this.

White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in 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. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like “U.S. Person One.”

The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.

The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations — primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.

Rice did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday morning. Her role in requesting the identities of Trump transition officials adds an important element to the dueling investigations surrounding the Trump White House since the president’s inauguration.

No, there’s absolutely nothing political about Susan Rice digging into Trump team conversations and then — oops — leaking that info to a hungry, sympathetic press eager to take some scalps.

But personally, I blame this entire mess on a YouTube video.

[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]

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