Senators Want Information on Unmasking of Trump Associates Dating Back to January 2016

May 20, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

Two senators expanded a recent request for information on the unmasking of Americans linked to Donald Trump’s campaign to include any unmasking applications made from January 2016 to January 2017.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) made the request last week to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell and Attorney General William Barr.

“One of the most significant unanswered questions about what occurred during the 2016 election is how many Americans were ‘unmasked,’ at whose request, and for what purpose,” they wrote.

Grassley and Johnson initially said they wanted information related to requests to unmask, or deanonymize, the names of Americans who appeared in intelligence reports “around the time of the 2016 election through January 2017.”

In the new letter, they said they now want to expand the scope of the request to include information dating back to January 2016.

chuck grassley
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 22, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Ron Johnson
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in Washington on June 7, 2016. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“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,” the senators wrote (pdf), linking to a story theorizing that Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, wasn’t masked in the first place.

Crossfire Hurricane is the code name for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign.

“It has become evident that the FBI, and possibly members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, were focused on U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign in early 2016, if not even earlier,” the lawmakers added.

For instance, FBI headquarters in Washington directed the New York field office in April 2016 to open a counterintelligence investigation of Carter Page, an advisor to the Trump campaign. That probe later became part of Crossfire Hurricane.

Johnson and Grassley reiterated that they want all information regarding the unmasking of Americans linked to the Trump campaign that was requested by members of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Michael Flynn
Former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, following a status hearing on July 10, 2018. (Manuel Balce Ceneta, File/AP photo)
obama and biden
President Barack Obama, right, and Vice President Joe Biden speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 17, 2016. (Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images)

If the information must be released in batches, they asked for information relating to the period of April through June 2016 first.

Grenell has in recent weeks declassified a list of Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn and a portion of an email that Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, sent to herself just before Trump was sworn into office.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier Tuesday asked for the declassification of Obama administration officials who sought to unmask people associated with the Trump campaign of transition team around the time of the 2016 presidential election.

“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 to Grenell and Barr.

Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.

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