Graham Questions Motivation of Flynn Unmasking Request, Demands Further Investigation

May 14, 2020 Updated: May 14, 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has questioned the motivation of the “unmasking” of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to Congress, as he demanded further investigation.

Graham made the remarks on the evening of May 13 after Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday sent a copy of the declassified list of Obama administration officials who requested the “unmasking” of Flynn, the incoming national security adviser for then-president-elect Donald Trump.

“The unmasking of Gen. Flynn by the Obama administration regarding conversations during the presidential transition [is] deeply troubling and smell[s] of politics, not national security,” the South Carolina senator wrote in a Twitter thread.

Dozens of Obama administration officials submitted requests to unmask an identity in a National Security Agency foreign intelligence report that turned out to be Flynn just before Trump entered office, according to the newly declassified list.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power were among those who submitted the “unmasking” request for Flynn, whose communication with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during Trump’s transition period was illegally leaked to the media.

Some of the names and information in the document have been redacted.

Graham said Wednesday evening that he would like to see further investigation into whether unmasking requests were submitted beyond Flynn.

“In light of Gen. Flynn’s unmasking by the Obama administration, the job of Congress will be to perform oversight of these unmasking requests to ensure the process was used for legitimate national security concerns, not reprisals or political curiosity,” he wrote.

“I specifically want to know how many unmasking requests were made, if any, beyond Gen. Flynn regarding members of the Trump campaign team, family, or associates.”

The list released by Grennell shows that eight unmasking requests were made on and after Dec. 29, 2016, the day when Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn spoke on the phone discussing sanctions. These include one request from Power on Jan. 11, 2017, one from Clapper on Jan. 7, 2017, one from then-Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew on Jan. 12, 2017, one from Chief of Staff to President Obama Denis McDonough on Jan. 5, 2017, one from then-Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Intelligence Integration Michael Dempsey on Jan. 7, 2017, one from then-Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie L. O’Sullivan on Jan. 7, 2017, one request by an official from the CIA on Jan. 10, 2017, which has been redacted, and one from Biden on Jan. 12, 2017.

The list does not include requests made outside the specified time frame, the document states.

The release of the list came as the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped its criminal case against Flynn.

Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was accused of lying to investigators, claiming he didn’t discuss Russian sanctions during a call he had with Kislyak before Trump took office. It was revealed in intercepted transcripts from the Obama administration that Flynn did discuss sanctions.

Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017 to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017 interview. However, documents released last month fuel assertions from the president that Flynn was “tormented” by the FBI and that the bureau tried to “intentionally frame” him.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said Wednesday that the newly declassified list leads him to believe the Obama administration used intelligence agencies to go after a political opponent, as he also demanded further investigation.

“I am greatly disturbed by the shocking information my office received today that gives a window into possible abuses of power motivated by political decisions,” he said.

“I call upon the Senate to immediately hold hearings. Clapper, Comey, Brennan, and even Joe Biden owe it to the American people. They should testify under oath.”

“It sounds like the entire upper circle of President Obama was listening to this,” Paul told reporters in Washington after the list was released.

“And realize, they did not have permission to listen to General Flynn. You have to get a warrant to listen to an American’s conversation.”

Paul said he plans to invite Grenell to testify before the Senate next week and answer questions about how unmasking usually works and how unusual the situation with Flynn was.

“We now know for a fact Vice President Biden was involved and he needs to be questioned on this, because we can’t elevate someone to the presidency who’s willing to use the the intelligence community to spy on his political opponents,” Paul told Fox News’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”

“That should be a deal-killer,” he added.

Janita Kan and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.