WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden and former FBI Director James Comey are among the top officials who tried to “unmask” Michael Flynn’s identity during the Russia probe, according to a report by acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
The bombshell letter, first reported by Fox News on Wednesday afternoon, was sent to Republican senators by Grenell as they seek to investigate the origins of the FBI’s malign probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Intelligence chiefs John Brennan and James Clapper are also included on the list of 23 named Obama-era officials who allegedly tried to reveal the identity of Flynn during the presidential transition period, as are Obama chief of staff Dennis McDonough and former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
Nine names were redacted for apparent national security purposes.
President Trump’s campaign issued a scathing statement ripping Biden.
“Joe Biden’s limp claim that he doesn’t know anything about the railroading of Gen. Michael Flynn just got even more unbelievable. Biden is listed among the Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn,” the campaign said.
“We already knew Biden was briefed on the Flynn case before President Trump took office and now we know that he wanted Flynn unmasked. Americans have a right to know the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”
The document sent to the senators Wednesday and obtained by Fox included a memo from National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone, who provided the list.
“Per your email request of 3 May 2020, I am providing a revised list of identities of any officials who submitted requests to the National Security Agency at any point between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask the identity of former National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (USA-Ret),” Nakasone wrote.
The list, he said, includes officials “who may have received Lt. Gen Flynn’s identity in response to a request processed between 8 November 2016 and 31 January 2017 to unmask an identity that had been generically referred to in an NSA foreign intelligence report.”
He also said that each person on the list was “an authorized recipient,” that the unmasking was approved through the agency’s normal procedures, and that intel officials could not say for sure that everyone on the list saw the unmasking information.
“While the principals are identified below, we cannot confirm they saw the unmasked information,” he said.
While Nakasone said proper procedures were followed, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, a critic of government overreach, teed off on Biden.
“Vice President Biden and more than a dozen Obama administration officials requested and received the power to unmask Flynn. Unmasking involves revealing the identity of an American’s private phone conversations without a constitutional warrant,” Paul said on Fox News.
“So this was a cabal, this was a conspiracy, and really, the question is, did President Obama direct it all or did vice president Biden?” he said.
Paul wants Grenell to testify before the Senate next week.
National security officials can seek to reveal the identity of people who had conversations that were subject to government surveillance, a process known as “unmasking.”
The Obama administration officials have been accused of “unmasking” Flynn’s identity based on intelligence intercepts of his calls with the former Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in late 2016.
Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak, Trump said at the time.
The Justice Department last week moved to drop the criminal case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Kislyak, though a federal judge in DC has not yet ruled on the move.
Attorney General William Barr defended the decision to drop the case, repeating Trump’s assertions that Flynn was the target of an unfair investigation.
“They did not have a basis for a counterintelligence investigation against Flynn at that stage, based on a perfectly legitimate and appropriate call he made as a member of the transition,” Barr told CBS News last week.
Grenell sent the list a day after GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa wrote to him and Barr asking them to release information about the Obama administration’s efforts to “unmask” US citizens who were subject to government surveillance, Politico reported.
“The officials listed should confirm whether they reviewed this information, why they asked for it and what they did with it, and answer many other questions that have been raised by recent revelations,” the senators said in a statement.
“We are making this public because the American people have a right to know what happened.”