White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday posed a series of questions to the reporters in the room over the case of former Trump administration national security adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and the involvement of various entities under the Obama administration.
McEnany’s questions were triggered by reporter Chanel Rion from One America News (OAN), who asked whether President Donald Trump “has considered pardoning” former President Barack Obama over allegedly “illegally wiretapping on Trump Towers, illegally spying on U.S. citizens and other potential crimes out there.”
McEnancy told Rion, “I have not spoken to the president about that … I haven’t spoken to [Trump] on that specific point, [but] have spoken to him about the matter generally.”
“But who I did speak to about President Obama and unmasking Michael Flynn were the men and women in this room,” McEnany said, turning to the wider group of reporters. “And I laid out a series of questions that any good journalist would want to answer about why people were unmasked, and I just wanted to follow up with you guys on that. Did anyone take it upon themselves to pose any questions about Michael Flynn and unmasking to President Obama’s spokesperson?”
“Oh, not a single journalist has posed that question,” McEnany noted, following a brief silence.
“So I would like to lay out a series of questions that perhaps if I write them out in a slide format—maybe we’re visual learners and you guys will follow up with journalistic curiosity,” she continued, and launched into a series of five questions, which were accompanied by pre-prepared slides.
The slides showed these five questions:
- Why did the Obama administration use opposition research, funded by a political organization and filled with foreign dirt, to surveil on members of the Trump campaign?
- Why was Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn unmasked by Obama’s chief of staff, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, and others?
- Why was Flynn’s identity leaked—a criminal act—to the press?
- Why did the DOJ learn about the FBI’s interest in Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador from a conversation with Obama in the Oval Office?
- Why did James Clapper, John Brennan, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice privately admit under oath that they had no evidence of collusion while saying the opposite publicly?
“It’s a long weekend, you guys have three days to follow up on those questions and I certainly hope the next time I ask, some hands go up. Because Obama’s spokesperson should be asked those questions, because President Trump’s spokespeople certainly would be,” McEnany told reporters before leaving the room.
Michael Flynn’s conversations with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey 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 Department of Justice 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”—also known informally as the “Russia investigation.” 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.
Shortly prior to posing her questions, McEnany was asked multiple questions over President Donald Trump’s comments earlier in the day about how places of faith should reopen this weekend.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they do not do it, I will override the governors. In America we need more prayer, not less,” Trump had said earlier in the day.
When asked at the briefing what authority Trump might have to supersede governors, McEnany said she wouldn’t answer a theoretical question.
“The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen,” she said, later adding that it is safe to reopen churches and other places of faith if it is done in accordance with federal guidelines, referring to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the issue that had not been made public prior to the press briefing.