Names of American citizens were unmasked in intel reports to protect the American people and may have included Trump transition team members, former National Security adviser Susan Rice claimed on MSNBC Tuesday.

The former Obama administration official defended herself against allegations she inappropriately unmasked, then disseminated intel on the Trump team during and after the 2016 election.

“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false,” Rice told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Tuesday.

“We only do it to protect the American people to do our jobs in the national security realm.”

“There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to, name not provided, just ‘US person.’ And sometimes in that context in order to understand the importance of the report and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information as to who that US official was,” she said.

While denying Trump communications were unmasked for political purposes, Rice also insisted, “There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking” – the difference being one is legal and the latter illegal.

The former UN ambassador also claimed Obama admin officials had “grave concern” over Russia’s potential interference in the election and that interceptions may have increased during that time.

“From August through the end of the administration we were hearing more and more about Russian interference in our electoral process. It was of grave concern to all of us in the national security team of the president and the president himself, so we took this issue very seriously. We thought it was crucial to defend the integrity of our election process and to be able to respond appropriately to what the Russians did to understand the full extent of their involvement.

“So yes, there was a pace of reporting that accelerated as the IC got more and more information on that and shared it with us officials… I can say that from when this first came to light in intelligence channels to when the the administration ended, we got more and more information.”

Rice also denied that she kept and shared a spreadsheet of Trump team names, as reported by The Daily Caller.

“Absolutely false, no spreadsheet, nothing of the sort,” she said.

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