Trump says of her refusal: “Not good!”
Following revelations that Susan Rice sought the unmasking of Americans purportedly caught up in incidental surveillance, Rice is on Congress’ short list of persons to testify on Russian hacking. She has, through her attorney, declined Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’s request to do so.
Obama’s former national security adviser, on Wednesday declined Sen. Lindsey Graham’s request to participate in a judiciary subcommittee hearing next week on Russian interference in the US election, CNN has learned.
A letter obtained exclusively by CNN from Rice’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, outlines the grounds for her decision not to appear. It was addressed to Graham, the Republican chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on crime and terrorism, which is holding the hearing, and senior Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.
“Senator Whitehouse has informed us by letter that he did not agree to Chairman Graham’s invitation to Ambassador Rice, a significant departure from the bipartisan invitations extended to other witnesses,” Ruemmler wrote. “Under these circumstances, Ambassador Rice respectfully declines Senator Graham’s invitation to testify.”
When Rice learned that Whitehouse did not agree with the invitation, she determined that the invitation was a “diversionary play” and decided against accepting.
A source familiar with Rice’s discussions told CNN that when Graham invited her, Rice believed it was a bipartisan overture and was prepared to accept. However, Whitehouse indicated to her that the invitation was made without his agreement, as he believed her presence was not relevant to the topic of the hearing, according to the source.
Rice considered the invitation a “diversionary play” to distract attention from the investigation into Russian election interference, including contacts between Trump allies and Russians during the campaign, the source said.
Whitehouse told CNN that “with the exception of that invitation, Senator Graham and I have agreed on all witnesses that have been invited to this hearing.”
He continued, “I don’t believe that Dr. Rice’s participation is germane to the topic of this hearing, and I believe her presence would be a distraction from the critical issues at hand. I fully support her decision not to testify.”
Watch the report:
Republican Senators Graham and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have responded to Rice’s refusal with the disbelief and disdain one might expect, but the response from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and even from the Atlantic are somewhat surprising in their agreement with Graham and Grassley.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Wednesday jabbed former national security adviser Susan Rice for declining to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
“At an appropriate time, I expect we will continue down this path,” Graham, who chairs the subcommittee on crime and terrorism, said in a statement. “I hope Ms. Rice will come before the committee – and not just the press.”
Ruemmler also argued that Whitehouse had not agreed to invite Rice to the hearing and that Graham acted on his own. That argument, however, was largely shot down by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top lawmakers.
“Declining to attend because you didn’t get an invite from a member of your party is a poor excuse and makes it appear as though she’s hiding something,” full committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement. “No investigation will be complete until her role is understood.”
Likewise, the committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), seemed unmoved by Rice’s argument and urged her to reconsider her decision not to testify.
“She has gone public. I saw her on Fareed’s show Sunday. I saw her today,” Feinstein said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” shortly after the letter was made public. “I’ve never heard that it has to be a bipartisan letter — this is sort of a new criteria.”
Not only is this “new criteria” perplexing, but the Atlantic also wonders why Rice would refuse to testify, noting accurately that it makes her look—yet again—as if she has something to hide.
The Atlantic asks, “Why won’t Susan Rice Testify Before Congress?“:
Rice, whom many Republicans have long despised, keeps ending up in situations in which she looks like she has something to hide. Take the accusation that she improperly unmasked Trump aides. She can deny that she did anything political or improper, but because much of the material in question is classified, she’s not at liberty to defend herself publicly. Reports from both CNN and NBC News say that Democratic and Republican investigators alike have found no evidence that Rice did anything wrong.
But by declining to testify, Rice again risks looking like she’s hiding something—as Trump surely understands and wished to highlight in his tweets.
President Trump has taken to Twitter to blast Rice for her decision.
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