President Donald Trump on Wednesday referred to former Vice President Joe Biden as a “big unmasker” following the release of a declassified list, which shows names of Obama administration officials who allegedly sought the “unmasking” of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Biden was among the names.
When asked to comment on the release of the names, the president said news of the unmasking list is “a massive thing.”
“I just got a list. It’s—who can believe a thing like this?” Trump said at the White House. “And I watched Biden yesterday on ‘Good Morning America’ being interviewed by one of your colleagues, George Stephanopoulos, and he said he knew nothing about anything. He has no idea. He knows nothing about anything. Nothing at all.”
“And then it gets released today that he was a big unmasker,” Trump said of Biden. “So how do you know nothing if you’re one of the unmaskers? It’s one of the very big stories, and I suspect you’ll have, if it’s possible, even bigger stories coming out.”
The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment immediately.
Biden told ABC News in an interview on Tuesday: “I was aware that there was, that they had asked for an investigation [into Michael Flynn]. But that’s all I know about it. I don’t know the details of where we are right now.”
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified the list on May 8 and sent a copy to Congress on Wednesday.
The list (pdf) shows the names of U.S. officials who submitted requests between November 2016 and January 2017 to unmask the identity of a U.S. citizen who was on phone calls with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, during the time leading up to the 2016 election through to January 2017.
The conversations between Flynn and Kislyak were subject to unmasking requests and were illegally leaked to the media—the leak is believed to have ultimately resulted in Flynn’s dismissal from his national security adviser role on Feb. 13, 2017, after just 24 days on the job.
Flynn was accused of lying to investigators because he said that he didn’t discuss Russian sanctions during a call with Kislyak. Intercepted transcripts from the Obama administration revealed that Flynn did discuss sanctions.
Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017 to one count of lying to FBI agents during the interview on Jan. 24, 2017. In late January 2020, Flynn formally asked the judge overseeing the sentencing to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.
The declassification of the list comes just a day after the Department of Justice filed a motion to drop all charges against Flynn on May 7. A federal judge on Tuesday said he would not immediately approve of the DOJ’s motion to immediately dismiss the prosecution, but would instead consider letting outside parties weigh in on the case with their opinions.