Sen. Lee Schools Chris Cuomo: He 'Absolutely Manipulated What I Said'

During Wednesday morning’s edition of the Cable News Channel’s New Day program, Chris Cuomo interviewed Republican Senator Mike Lee on a number of topics, but the co-host added extra pressure regarding the case of Susan Rice, who has been accused of “unmasking” politicians to the public.

Cuomo asked: “Did you mean to suggest that Susan Rice may have done her unmasking for political reasons?” Lee replied: “That is an absolutely absurd manipulation of what I said!”

The segment began with discussion of a chemical attack in Syria that killed at least 72 people before turning to the situation in which Rice is involved.

At that point, Cuomo inquired: “I want to ask: Did you mean to add fuel to the fire of speculation about Susan Rice when you said that ‘political espionage is too common, too tempting.’ Did you mean to suggest that Susan Rice may have done her unmasking for political reasons?”

“Look,” Lee replied: “I have no idea what she did. Those facts are being investigated. I’ve made this clear in every interview I’ve done.”

Cuomo then claimed that the conservative Breitbart website -- which is “the president’s viewing of choice” because “he loves to see what they put out -- “is using you as the ‘poster boy’ for people who believe that Susan Rice was politically motivated in unmasking. Do they have it right?"

Before his guest could respond, the co-host continued:

You have no reason to believe that any of those concerns are in play with Susan Rice.

In fact, you have every reason to believe they were not at play… because as far as you and I know, we’ve never heard of anybody wanting to leak and doing so by leaving a paper trail of making a request for the information that she got.

“She unmasked,” Cuomo added. “That’s a big procedure. There’s no indication she didn’t follow it. That means she would have created her own paper trail to do ‘political espionage,’ to use the phrase the political right uses on this story.”

“There’s no basis for it,” the co-host asserted, “so why conflate the two issues of the potential of surveillance with a specific incident of incidental surveillance where those risks do not seem to be in play?”

“I’ve done no such thing,” Lee finally had a chance to respond. “For the third time on your program this morning and to reiterate something that I’ve said to reporters every single time I’ve been asked about this: ‘I don’t know what happened with Susan Rice.’”

“Right, but you did say, however, that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that it could have happened,” Cuomo stated.

“Now that doesn’t fly in a court of law, but it does fly in the court of public opinion,” the co-host again continued, “and it does seem as though you’re saying Rice has to prove that it wasn’t politically motivated for me to believe that it wasn’t, and that’s not fair.”

At that point, the Utah Republican began to lose his patience:

That is an absolutely absurd manipulation of what I said! That is not at all what I said. I did in fact say something like this could have happened.

I did not say it’s absolutely absurd to suggest that something like this could have happened, and every time I’ve said anything like that, it’s been accompanied by: “I don’t know what Susan Rice did. I don’t know the facts of this case I’m sure it’ll be investigated.”

Later in the day, the Right Scoop website posted a response to the torrid exchange: The site stated that Lee was “interrogated on CNN this morning by their resident hack, Chris Cuomo, about comments he made to Breitbart about Section 702, political espionage, and Susan Rice.”

“So how does CNN represent this interview on their tweet about it? By suggesting that Lee walked back his espionage remark: “@SenMikeLee steps back from Susan Rice espionage remark: ‘I don’t know what Susan Rice did. I don’t know the facts.’”

“But Lee did no such thing because he never accused her of political manipulation in the first place,” the post concluded. “Once again, CNN is manipulating what Lee said.

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