Putin 'is lying' by denying Russian interference in US election, Susan Rice says

PHOTO: White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice briefs reporters about President Barack Obamas upcoming trip to Africa in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, July 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WATCH One-on-one with Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice

Former national security adviser under President Obama, Susan Rice, said Russian President Vladimir Putin "is lying" by denying Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Rice in an exclusive interview on "This Week" Sunday was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos about Putin's recent statement that the Russian government didn't meddle in the U.S. election although patriotic Russians might have done so.

"Is that as close to an admission of guilt we're going to get form President Putin?" Stephanopoulos said.

“I don't know what we'll hear from President Putin, George. But frankly, he's lying," Rice said. "The reality is, as all of our intelligence agencies have come together to affirm with high confidence, the Russian government at the highest levels was behind the very unprecedented effort to meddle in our 2016 presidential election."

“We need to understand exactly how and why that happened and whether or not there's any evidence to suggest that there were those on the American side who facilitated that meddling,” she added.

Rice also said President Trump’s approach to NATO helps further Putin’s objective of weakening the European alliance.

In his meeting with European leaders on his recent trip abroad, Trump drew attention by not explicitly endorsing NATO's Article 5, which requires all nations in the alliance to come to the defense of any member that is attacked.

“That is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants,” Rice said. “Because Putin's interests, as he actually reaffirmed just on Friday, is to see NATO weakened and ultimately destroyed. And when the United States, the most important player in NATO, casts doubt about our commitment to that vital alliance, it undermines our security. It undermines the security of our closest allies. And it's a big win for Vladimir Putin.”

Rice also commented on reports that the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition period before Trump took office about setting up back-channel communications with Russia.

“What I found most concerning about that report, which, if true, is that Jared Kushner suggested to the Russian ambassador that they communicate using Russian communications in a Russian diplomatic facility to hide their conversation from the United States government,” Rice said.

“That's extraordinary, if not mind-boggling from the point of view of a national security professional. I have worked in this field for 25 years. And I have never heard of such a thing,” Rice said.

The Russia investigation is also bringing new scrutiny to Rice’s time as national security adviser. The House Intelligence Committee's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, has issued subpoenas to intelligence agencies for any information about Rice's efforts made to identify, or "unmask," individuals named in intelligence reports.

“I don't have of course any objection to the agencies being responsive to congressional oversight," Rice told Stephanopoulos. "That's what they're expected to do,” Rice said.

"I think what is unfortunate is that it appears that ... this subpoena was issued on a unilateral basis by the chairman, not on a bipartisan basis," she said.

Rice added that she has nothing to hide.

“I'm confident that those documents will show that I, like national security advisers before me, and other senior officials in positions of responsibility, whether at the State Department, Defense Department, or the intelligence community, were doing what we needed to do to do our jobs, which is to protect the American people, to protect classified information, to protect civil liberties. That's what those documents will show,” she said.