- - Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Fact: Susan Rice, the Obama administration’s national security adviser, directed the “unmasking” of NSA intercepts of Donald Trump’s aides and associates. In other words, the Obama administration used the intelligence community’s spying on Mr. Trump, and Ms. Rice then demanded that the names of those captured on intercepts be given to her.

Fact: Names of some Trump aides have been leaked to the media and subsequently published. In one case, Michael Flynn, appointed by Mr. Trump as national security adviser, was forced to resign after reports revealed he misled Vice President Mike Pence about discussions with the Russian ambassador. Other names of Trump officials have also circulated amid reports that they have connections to the Russians.

Only a fool would refuse to connect these two dots.

Enter CNN. After the Rice bombshell hit, the Clinton News Network went into hyperdrive to discredit the reports — despite the fact that there is very clearly some there there.

“On this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending” it’s legitimate, CNN host Don Lemon said on his show Monday night. “Nor will we aid and abet the people trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion. Not going to do it.”

When morning show host Chris Cuomo interviewed a Democratic congressman, the “journalist” stated flatly that the bombshell — remember, it’s a FACT that Rice directed the “unmasking” of Trump officials — was “demonstrably untrue.”

The network’s chief national security correspondent, Jim Scuitto — who was, by the way, a political appointee in the Obama White House — also dismissed the story as a nothingburger. He said the Trump White House had “ginned up” the story to distract from so-called damaging reports.

“Again, to note by senior intelligence officials who work for both Democrats and Republicans, this appears to be a story, largely ginned up, partly as a distraction from this larger investigation,” Mr. Scuitto said. No surprise, but the “journalist” offered no “facts” or “evidence” for the claim.

And on Tuesday’s “New Day,” anchor Alisyn Camerota begged Sen. John McCain of Arizona, CNN’s favorite RINO, to dismiss the story.

“They say that this is a controversy. It shows that she has done something wildly out of the bounds of normalcy,” she said. “Is this business as usual for a national security adviser to ask for a name to be revealed, an American name, if she wants to know more, or is this some sort of a controversy?”

(For the record, Mr. McCain didn’t play along, saying the request “could have been politically motivated.”)

Meanwhile, the three mainstream TV networks all but passed on the story, with ABC and NBC forgetting to report the bombshell, and CBS actually defending Ms. Rice.

“We learned more today about the president’s allegation that he and his aides were caught up in Obama-era surveillance,” CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley said, throwing to reporter Margaret Brennan.

“According to a former national security official, Trump associates were not the sole focus of Rice’s request, but they may have been revealed when she asked to understand why they were appearing in intelligence reports,” Ms. Brennan said. “However, Rice did not spread the information according to this former official, who insisted that there was nothing improper or political involved.”

Well, she said “nuh uh”? Good enough for me!

The networks did cover Ms. Rice saying she didn’t do it, although she added, “I don’t have a particular recollection of doing that more frequently after the election.” Ah, the perfect nonanswer.

“The notion, which some people are trying to suggest, that by asking for the identity of the American person is the same as leaking it — that’s completely false,” Ms. Rice said. “There is no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.”

Unless there is. Democrats clearly have a ton of intelligence on Mr. Trump and his aides, which they’re dripping out in dribs and drabs. And the fact — there’s that word again — that names of the “unmasked” are leaking means someone’s leaking them out (Captain Obvious here).

Here’s the crux: The whole Trump-Russia collusion story first tossed up by Hillary Clinton is cover for the illegal surveillance the Obama administration did to help Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 election. Now they need cover, so they’re making it seem like the Russians were bent on destroying American democracy. Simple.

You won’t hear THAT on CNN.

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He also ran the Drudge Report as morning editor for four years. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter via@josephcurl.

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