A newly published list of US officials who were interested in National Security Agency (NSA) records on Trump adviser Michael Flynn includes President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, as well as Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden is listed as requesting the unmasking on January 12, 2017, the same day the Washington Post published a story claiming that Flynn had misreported his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, based on leaked NSA information.
Flynn unmasking documents f… by RT America on Scribd
Yet on Tuesday, Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he “knew nothing” about the investigation of Flynn, and accused the Trump administration of using the former adviser’s case as a “diversion” from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The unmasking log was provided by the NSA to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last week, and sent by the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell to two senators who requested it, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), who published it on Wednesday.
In addition to Biden, the document shows that then-DNI James Clapper made three unmasking requests about Flynn, CIA Director John Brennan made two, and FBI Director James Comey made one.
Biden’s campaign reacted at first by lashing out against the CBS reporter who published the documents, with his rapid response director Andrew Bates calling Catherine Herridge “a partisan, rightwing hack who is a regular conduit for conservative media manipulation ploys.”
Bates later removed the tweet and issued a follow-up, calling the unmasking perfectly normal behavior by US officials concerned “over intelligence reports of Michael Flynn’s attempts to undermine ongoing American national security policy.”
The documents show Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff at the time, made an unmasking request on January 5 – the very day Obama met with all the intelligence principals, and a day after FBI agent Peter Strzok intervened to keep the case on Flynn open despite the lack of any “derogatory” evidence. Strzok would later be sent by Comey to interview Flynn and edit the notes of that interview (the “302”) to imply Flynn had lied to him, resulting in the former general’s prosecution by special counsel Robert Mueller.
What the documents also show is that the Obama administration’s interest in what the NSA might have on Flynn began soon after the November 2016 election, with then-US envoy to the UN Samantha Power filing an unmasking request on November 30. She filed six more after that, the last dated January 11, 2017.
Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak about US sanctions against Russia was on December 29, 2016, after Obama suddenly announced the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats and seizure of two diplomatic properties, citing Moscow’s alleged “meddling” in the presidential election.
Evidence that only recently emerged in the Flynn case showed that the leadership of the FBI and the Department of Justice sought to interview him using the pretext of the Logan Act, an 18th-century law which has never been used to prosecute anyone, and did not apply in this instance since Flynn was not a private citizen, but an official of the incoming administration conducting routine business during the presidential transition. This new evidence led the DOJ to announce last week it was dropping all charges against Flynn.
Between the manufactured pretext to go after Flynn and the prior revelation that four FISA warrants used to spy on the Trump campaign via adviser Carter Page had been entirely based on the discredited ‘Steele dossier’, the Trump administration has argued that they were unfairly targeted by its predecessor in what amounted to an illegal coup.
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