In a monologue on his Monday night program, CNN host Don Lemon said the network and host will not cover the story about Susan Rice uncovering, or 'unmasking,' the names of Trump officials and confidants that were swept up in surveillance.
"So let us be very clear about this," Lemon said. "There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team surveilled or spied on -- was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president's original claim."
"And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who were trying to misinform you the American people by creating a diversion. We're not going to do it," Lemon declared.
"President Trump once again sees all of this as vindication for his false wiretap tweets when it doesn't at all vindicate that," Lemon said.
DON LEMON, CNN: But first, a word before we get started. It has been one month since the president of the United States falsely tweeted that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him.
One month later, the White House and the president are still trying to make a lie true. And they're using the president's Twitter account, the White House press briefing podium and right wing media to do it.
Today it's a claim that President Obama's former security adviser Susan Rice unmasked the names of Trump's associates. We will talk about that in detail in just a moment on this very program.
And last week, it was the debunk talking point that former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas admitted spying on the Trump team. She did no such thing.
The week before that it was Representative Devin Nunes' clumsy effort to give the president cover for wiretapping claims. The president said he was vindicated by Nunes. He was not. The Washington Post today calls the latest claims about Susan Rice anatomy of a fake scandal, ginned up by right-wing media and Trump.
So let us be very clear about this. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Trump team surveilled or spied on -- was spied on illegally. There is no evidence that backs up the president's original claim.
And on this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence by pretending otherwise, nor will we aid and abet the people who were trying to misinform you the American people by creating a diversion. We're not going to do it.
I want to tell you that we're learning tonight that President Trump spoke briefly with President Vladimir Putin today to express his sympathies to the Russian people in the wake of a terror in St. Petersburg.
I want to bring you now Michael Isikoff, he's a chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo news, former CIA analyst, Nada Bakos, CNN's Jim Sciutto, and the Washington Post Adam Entous.
I'm so good to -- I'm so glad to have all of you on this evening. Jim, I want to start with you because you can bring us the details on this story.
President Trump once again sees all of this as vindication for his false wiretap tweets when it doesn't at all vindicate that. Do they know -- tell us what you're reporting tonight. Because I understand that you have been speaking to a person who is close to Ambassador Rice.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right, this is the first comment we really have from the Rice camp, in effect, on this allegation. And I'm told in simple terms that the allegation that Ambassador Rice improperly unmask the identities of Americans is false.
And that this is -- unmasking is something that happens when you're a senior financial security official whether democrat or republican. That's a statement from the Rice camp. Leave that as it be, because I also spoke with former senior U.S. intelligence officials who serve both republican and democratic administrations, and they say consistently a couple of things.
One, unmasking identities in certain circumstances is not unusual and it's not illegal. Why would you do it? You would do it to get more background on an intelligence report that your briefer brings you. It's legal, and, in fact, there were protocols put in place and updated after 9/11 to allow this under certain circumstances. And when you do, it's very well logged.
One former senior U.S. intelligence official said it's better logged than Irish baptismal records. A little bit of a joke, but you can't do it in secret.
A couple more points on it. One, a security national official, whether they are the National Security Adviser, Susan Rice or anyone can't do it on their own. They ask the intelligence committee to unmask that identity, and it's up to the intelligence committee, specifically the NSA, to do so.
So they have to decide that it is justified to do that. And finally, how broadly is that information shared, Don? I'm told that when an identity is unmasked, it is between the briefer and that senior national security official. It is not put in a memo, it's not tweeted out, it's not put on the Whitehouse.gov web site. Right? It's between them.
Now there are open questions here. That official could of course share that information more broadly within the administration. We don't know what happened in this case. We also don't know what justification was used to unmask in these particular cases.
But at least on the issue of masking, unmasking by itself is not leaking, it's not illegal, and I'm told by multiple officials who serve both parties that it is not unusual, either.