Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday requested the names of any Obama-era officials who may have sought to unmask the identity of people associated with the Trump campaign or transition team around the time of the 2016 presidential election.
The request comes after Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Richard Grenell on May 13 released a list of 39 Obama administration officials who submitted requests to unmask the identity of former Trump administration national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn from Nov. 8, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2017.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey were among the names on the list.
“Given the extensive number of requests for the unmasking of General Flynn’s name during this short time period, it raises the question of whether these or other officials sought the unmasking of the identities of other individuals associated with the Trump campaign or transition team,” Graham wrote in a letter (pdf) to Grenell and Attorney General William Barr.
— Senate Judiciary (@senjudiciary) May 19, 2020
Graham is requesting a list of names of any officials who requested to unmask the identities of people associated with the Trump campaign or transition team, “including but not limited to,” President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in law Jared Kushner, as well as former Trump campaign associates Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, Chris Christie, Carter Page, and George Papadopoulos.
Graham is also seeking from Grenell and Barr an explanation as to why the list that the Office of the DNI released on May 13 “did not contain a record showing who unmasked General Flynn’s identity for his phone call” with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak in late December 2016 were subject to unmasking requests and were illegally leaked to the media. The leak is believed to have eventually triggered the controversy that led to Flynn’s dismissal as Trump’s former national security adviser. Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017 to one count of lying to the FBI, but in January 2020, Flynn sought to withdraw his guilty plea, with his lawyers arguing that he had been entrapped by the FBI in the interview.
The DOJ filed a motion to dismiss the case against Flynn on May 7, saying that the FBI had an insufficient basis to question Flynn and that his statements were not material to the FBI’s broader counterintelligence investigation into allegations of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, code named “Crossfire Hurricane.” Robert Mueller, who took over the investigation in May 2017 after 22 months did not ultimately find sufficient evidence to establish any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.
On Tuesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) expanded their request to Grenell to encompass information surrounding all unmasking requests of the Trump campaign by Obama administration officials dating back as early as January 2016. The two Republicans had earlier sought for “names of Obama-era officials who were behind the unmasking of Americans around the time of the 2016 election through January 2017.” Grenell had forwarded the Flynn “unmasking” list to the senators on May 13.
“We write now both to reiterate our request for the declassification of additional information related to the unmasking of Americans around the time of the 2016 election, but also to expand the scope of our request to include information as early as January 2016,” Johnson and Grassley wrote on Tuesday (pdf). “Based on our investigation and recent press reports, we are increasingly concerned that the surveillance of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign began earlier than the opening of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation in late July 2016.”
Graham earlier announced on May 14 a new probe into Crossfire Hurricane and said that the Senate Judiciary Committee will “begin holding multiple, in-depth congressional hearings regarding all things related to Crossfire Hurricane starting in early June.”
Graham is seeking authority to subpoena documents for 53 top Obama administration officials, as part of the committee’s FISA abuse investigation and oversight of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, he announced on Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss the subpoena authorization on May 21 and vote on the matter on June 4.