"There is an established process for senior national security officials to ask for the identity of USA persons in these reports", she added.

President Trump said Wednesday that Susan Rice, the former national security advisor to President Obama, may have committed a crime by allegedly using US intelligence agencies to spy on Trump campaign officials during the election. She would not say whether she saw intelligence related to Trump associates or whether she asked for their identities, though she did say that reports related to Russian Federation increased in the final months of the presidential election campaign.

At the same time, he also praised Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, whose show The O'Reilly Factor has been shedding advertisers this week after a Times report revealed he or the company had made payments to five women who had accused him of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior.

"Do I think? Yes, I think", he responded.

"I think it's going to be the biggest story", Trump said in an Oval Office interview published under the bylines of Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush. These names are usually redacted or even given vague descriptors like "Male 1".

It's not illegal to unmask the names of Americans caught up incidentally in surveillance. While Rice would not deny that she asked that names of Trump officials be demasked, she insisted the Obama administration did not spy on Mr. Trump or his staff for political purposes.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.

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Trump took to Twitter last month to accuse President Barack Obama of having wiretapped him at Trump Tower, his NY skyscraper, during the campaign. The propensity to shift goal posts is par for the course - pun very much intended - for a president who seems to spend more time golfing and relying on speculative media pundits than understanding his own agencies' rules and procedures.

"The more we find out about this, the more we learn there was something there", Spicer said.

After false starts and odd twists in the White House's counternarrative about the potential connections between President Trump's campaign and Russia's electoral meddling, the storyline has settled into a familiar arc: It's all Susan Rice's fault.

Americans' names also can be included if doing so "is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance", according to guidelines made public by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the 16 USA intelligence agencies. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Republicans do not call it "outrageous" that Rice might have been involved in potentially asking for Americans to be "unmasked" in classified reports about legal surveillance of foreign targets - including potentially of Trump or his aides.

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